Shopping in Morocco is chaotic, exciting, confusing and sweaty! At least it is if you’re a tourist and you’re shopping in the souks.
I was apprehensive about shopping in Morocco. Pre-trip I didn’t know what to buy in Marrakech. Everyone just told me that I had to go shopping in the famous souks. And wow, was it an adventure!
In anticipation for your trip, this guide on shopping in Morocco, specifically Marrakech, should give you all the information that I initially lacked and had to learn the hard (but fun!) way.
What are the souks? It’s the name given to an Arab market. It’s usually an open-air market and sometimes referred to as souqs.
Tips for Surviving the Souks Marrakech
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With some 3,000 winding lanes, the reality is you are going to get lost. But, if you’re going to get lost it might as well be in another country and into a warren of goodies. Welcome to the souks (also sometimes known as the souqs) of Marrakech. A maze of market stalls offering the world and then some.
Where are the Souks Marrakech? Off the main square of Jemaa el-Fnaa, in Marrakech’s medina quarter (old city).
1. Forget the Map
There’s no point consulting a map because once you enter the souks, the mercy of your fate lies in the hands of the market stalls.
Okay, that’s a little dramatic, sorry.
What I’m trying to say, is don’t waste your time pouring over a map. Embrace your inner explorer. If you’re visiting the souks for the very first time, I recommend you go in daylight. The locals are friendly and will offer you directions, but of course, it’s always in return for a tip. Bear in mind that the further out you get, the less language skills the locals seem to have.
Feel uneasy about entering the warren or short on time? Why not try a 3-hour Souks Tour where an expert will show you the best bits?
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2. Bring Cash
You name it, the souks offer it. Handcrafted shoes, delicious pastries, leather handbags, intricately designed lamps, vintage cameras, spices, trotters, passports…..well, let’s just say it’s a pretty long list.
Even the most restrained shoppers will end up laden with bags. You’ll struggle to find a trustworthy card machine. Bring your muscles and lots of cash.
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3. Roll With the Banter (and Use it to Your Advantage!)
“Skinny prices for skinny people”, “ASDA prices” and of course, “No charge for looking” will be ringing in your ears.
The sellers are harmless and love to have a good bit of banter. They are after a sell, but they’ve learnt their lessons from years of trading. They’ll leave you alone to peruse their goods in peace and then pipe up when you’re ready to start negotiations.
Don’t be all English on them. Turn that frown upside down and show them a smile. They’ll love you even more if you even throw a joke back at them. You might even get an extra discount.
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4. Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Negotiations, you ask? Yes, even for a small bracelet you’ll need to work if you don’t want to pay over the odds.
As a rule of thumb, offer half or a third of their first price. Work up from there.
If they say no to your last offer, then simply walk away. Chances are they’ll run after you, backtracking and accepting your price.
If they don’t, worry not, as you’re bound to see the same item just round the corner.
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5. Be Courageous
If you can’t be bothered with the two-ing and frow-ing and you think their first price is reasonable then there’s no shame in paying it.
You’ll make the sellers day and it will certainly save you some time.
Time for more shopping, or perhaps more time to find your way out…
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6. Be Sensible
Be realistic and compare prices to those back home. Is it really leather? Is it worth your precious luggage space? Will it even fit in your bag or if not, how much will it cost to ship home?
As a general indicator, you’ll find thin scarves on offer for the equivalent of a few pounds, sandals between £4-£15 and a whole multitude of prices for bags depending on the skin (if any) used.
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7. Go Window Shopping
Even if you’re not into shopping, it’s worth a curious stroll round the souks. You can watch workman craft wooden toys with their bare feet, blowtorch lanterns without any safety glasses, or perhaps cook up a mean tagine.
The tiny workshops and conditions they operate in are worlds apart from England. Most have one definite perk though; they nearly always have a feline assistant snuggled in their lap. Very cute.
Morocco Souvenirs and What to Buy in Morocco
Famous Morocco souvenirs include beautiful rugs, handcrafted leather bags, belts and sandals, those iconic lamps. Oh and those curly shoes, but they’re not quite as practical as the other typical Morocco souvenirs are they?!
You’ll see lots of Moroccan poufs – like a little round footstool. They’re typically made from leather, but watch out for ones that are made from plastic claiming to be leather. If the price is significantly cheaper that’s probably why.
On a budget and wondering what to buy in Morocco? You’ll also see lots of Moroccan spices and herbal medicines. They’re an inexpensive option and don’t take up much space in your luggage.
Again, if you find one place is loads cheaper it could be because the spices have blended with other cheaper ones or shipped in from somewhere else, so double check on details.
What Should I Wear in Marrakech?
If you want to avoid stares and unwanted attention, I’d recommend trying to blend in with the locals. For women, that means wearing a maxi or midi dress, and ideally something that covers your shoulders. Obviously, something like airy palazzo pants and a loose top would work well too.
Opening Times for the Marrakech Souks
The souks are open seven days a week, though you may find Friday a little quieter as it’s considered Holy Day.
Generally speaking, the best time to visit is in the morning.
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Have you been to the souks? Would you know what to buy in Marrakech? Do you have any tips to add to this list?