Morocco Tours by Erlebnis Tours Maroc





  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  








     

Shopping

Introduction

The Souk, the Moroccan equivalent of European street markets, holds a very important place in daily Moroccan life. There is a souk in every town in the kingdom.

First of all, souks are places to buy local products, but they are also an important part of Moroccans' social lives; souks are where disputes and debts are settled, and also where wedding plans are made. Secondly, souks are an important source of income for the crafts people of the Kingdom. You'll find anything and everything in these huge bazaars: rugs, souvenirs, ornaments, food, guides, spices, babouches (slippers), traditional art, etc. Souks are all the charm and hospitality that Morocco has to offer brought together in a single place.

Originally, souks allowed the different tribes to meet with each other on neutral ground. For the tourist, the souks are the place to go to dive right into Moroccan culture and to see what life there is really all about.

Naturally, tourists can be spotted 100 yards away by the keen-eyed street merchants just waiting for your money...so, you will get hassled, nicely, but hassled anyway. Just try to be open-minded but firm about the whole thing. Take the time to negotiate; it's all part of the game. Check out our tips for shopping in Morocco below for more information on successful bargaining.

Arab Souk   

Shopping in Morocco

Shopping in Morocco is a unique experience. No visit to Morocco would be complete without visiting a souk. The skill at which a shopkeeper can get you to not only pay several times what he would charge a Moroccan, but to get you to buy something you don't even want is amazing. So, make your experience of shopping in Morocco more enjoyable and profitable by arming yourself with a little knowledge before you embark.

  • Get a supply of Moroccan coins for tipping. Tips are expected for photos; the going rate is 1 to 5 Dirhams (6p-30p).

  • Exchange only as much money as you expect to spend. Always exchange money in banks or at the larger hotels, never on the street.

  • Credit cards are accepted for larger purchases but carry cash for most souk buys.

  • A guide is an invaluable asset in the winding, twisting alleys of both Fez and Marrakech. Our guides at Erlebnis Tours will happily show you round.

  • Bear in mind that Friday is the Muslim holy day. Most stalls are closed between 12-3pm.

  • Watch your belongings - pickpockets roam the souks.

  • Be prepared to be jostled. The souks are crowded, especially in Fez & Marrakech.

Bargaining
Bargaining is entirely natural in Morocco, so never pay attention to the initial prices. This is simply a device to test the limits of a particular deal or situation. The best thing to do is to visit a fixed price store to determine the real prices of the crafts. Set your mind on how much you are willing to pay and then go back to the souks to negotiate the prices of the articles. You should always take your time when bargaining. You might get a better deal than some other tourist with less patience or experience. So be patient and stick to what you feel is a fair price.

All you have to do is show the slightest interest in something and the game begins. Ask the price and you've bought it already as far as the shopkeeper is concerned! They'll start at ten times a fair price if they think you'll pay it. They have nothing to lose except some time, which you will notice they never run short of in Morocco. So be patient and stick to what you feel is a fair price. Once you reach your top price keep repeating it, over and over. They'll counter with "what is your best price" over and over again too. Eventually they'll get the point.

Though you might feel as though you are inundated with offers and deals in many Moroccan souks, avoid rude or aggressive behaviour. If you are genuinely not interested in making any purchases at the time, a friendly decline and your body language will likely tell them this. In general, never keep silent if you are offered something as silence is considered to be rude and offensive. It is preferable to talk your way out of the situation.

Where to Buy

Souks are to be found everywhere; each town has its own special ones. Large cities like Fez and Marrakech have labyrinths of individual souks (each filling a street or square and devoted to one particular craft), and in the countryside there are hundreds of weekly souks, on a different day in each village of the region.

If you are looking for a more relaxed place to shop, we recommend the souks in Taroudant, considered to be the best in South Morocco and Essaouira, where there is a much greater feeling of space. Taroudant is particularly well known for the crafts of stone carving, leather work, rugs and antique or antique-style jewellery. Essaouira is best known for marquetry made from the scented thuya wood.

Agadir
Centre Regional d'Artisant
 
This centre, a school for apprentices, sells carpets, jewellery, pottery and wooden items. Note: there is no bargaining. Traditional crafts are also sold in the souk, which is open on weekends. 

The Medina d'Agadir
The medina d'Agadir (8 km south of Agadir) is another fascinating place to visit to see craftsmen at work. The workshops are set in stunning surroundings.

   

Marrakech
The Souks
 
Take one of our guides round the labyrinth of narrow streets in the souk, which has an astonishing selection of tapestries, jewellery and copper. At the goldsmiths souk, only the merchants are allowed at 16:00 to buy gold in open air auctions. 

Al Jawda (Moroccan confectionery) 
Hakima Alami for the last 15 years has made traditional cakes according to her mother's recipes: Cornes de Gazelle (Gazelle Horns), Almond macarons, Almond Paste Pastillas and fresh cream Feqqas. 

L'Orientaliste 
The place to find Fez plates and dishes, enamelled glass, hammered copper sugar bowls, small bottles, candleware and camel leather lamp poles. 

Djemaa el Fna 
This is probably the liveliest area in town, seething with tourists, tooth-pullers, snake charmers and fortune-tellers. Sample the keftas and other specialities at food stands. 

Djemaa el Fna Square in Marrakesh    Marrakesh Souk

Rabat
Ensemble Artisanal
Traditional crafts from all over Morocco are sold in one area of Rabat. They include pottery, wood and wrought-iron pieces, embroidery and carpets - all meticulously arranged in an artistic display.

What to Buy

Moroccan Crafts
Craft, or artesanie, traditions are still highly active, and even the goods that are mass-produced for tourists are surprisingly untacky. However, to find pieces of real quality is not that easy. Some crafts have become dulled by centuries of repetition and others have been corrupted by modern techniques and chemical dyes. If you’re planning on buying something, it’s always worth getting as close to the source of the goods as possible. You can get a good idea of the original standards by visiting one of the various traditional craft museums that are spread around the country. There are pretty good ones in Fez, Meknes, Tangier, Rabat and Marrakech.

Carpets, Rugs and Blankets
An unforgettable part of any souk experience is a visit to the rug merchant. Expect to drink three or four glasses of sweet mint tea and spend at least half a day in negotiations for one of Morocco's top products. Prices vary with the degree of work, from 50,000-100,000 Dirhams (£3,000-6,000 / €4,490-8,980) for a High Atlas (Berber) carpet, made with 100% wool and dyed with vegetable colours, to 47,000 Dirhams (£2,800 / €4220) for a reversible carpet (with a summer and winter side), to as little as 1,300 Dirhams (£77 / €115) for a kilim rug. Arrangements can be made with merchants for shipping and delivery to be included in the negotiated price.

   

Pottery
Pottery in Morocco is colourful, if fairly crudely made on the whole, although the blue-and-white designs of Fez and the multicoloured designs of Chefchaouen are highly attractive.

   

Metalwork
Morocco is famous for its copperwork, especially round platters, but you can find an infinite variety of goods made from metal. Copper, silver and bronze are all worked into intricate Islamic patterns on just about everything. Quality jewellery is a little harder to find, but good craftmanship is usually a bargain.

Woodwork
Moroccans do some very nice woodworking. Particularly attractive is the Thuya wood from Essaouira. The wood has beautiful burls and a very strong scent. It is often inlaid with silver or other woods. You can pick up small to large boxes, bowls, carvings, chess sets, even furniture. We recommend you buy Thuya wood in Essaouira from the craftsmen who make it, if you are journeying that way. 

   

Leather
Although fine leatherwork is sold in souks throughout Morocco, the best selection is found in Fez. This city is home to an expansive tannery, one of Africa's most photographed sites. Purses (85 Dirhams or £5), sequin-dotted leather camel toys (25-45 Dirhams or £1.50-2.70 / €2.25-4.05), and babouches or soft slippers (25-200 Dirhams or £1.50-12 / €2.25-18) are some of the most popular items in the tannery store.

Clothing
Another shopping experience in the souk is the dress shop. Kaftans, traditional women's dress, and the djellaba, a long man's garment with a deep, pointed hood, are available in a variety of styles and materials ranging from cotton, polyester or silk. Prices start at about 200 Dirhams (£12 / €18) and go as high as 5,000 Dirhams (£300 / €450) for a special occasion garment. Look for other traditional wear as well. The burnoose, an elegant hooded cape, can sell for 3,800 Dirhams (£225 / €342). Djellabas come in three styles: Arab (large, flowing garments), Berber (with straighter lines) and Pasha (a two-piece garment worn for special events).

Food and Spices
In general, all food in Morocco is suspect. Unless it's been packaged by a large corporation, like Danone yogurt (which is rarely refrigerated in Morocco), you take your chances. The best thing to buy to remember the food by is Moroccan spices. Every medina has a few spice shops and you should visit one just to see and smell the variety.

Medicines
Even if you're feeling perfectly healthy, don't miss the chance to visit a Moroccan pharmacy. Like a witch doctor's den, these mysterious shops tucked in the souk's alleys offer local residents cures for everything from toothaches to arthritis to broken hearts. Powders and potions, concocted of local herbs, not to mention dried lizards seen hanging on the walls, provide a cure for whatever ails you.

Hashish
We don't advocate the purchase or consumption of hashish in Morocco. All cannabis products are illegal and breaking the law puts you at risk of doing time in a Moroccan prison, which would be extremely unpleasant. However, if this is something you choose to do, be careful! The person who sells you hashish might turn you in for a reward or they might just rip you off. That said, hashish is readily available throughout Morocco. Morocco is the world's largest exporter of hashish and it is a leading source of foreign trade.

Shipping

Most of the larger shops, and almost all carpet shops, can arrange for your purchase to be shipped to your home. This is a good idea, as it's no fun carrying a lot of items around, but be careful. Most of the larger, more reputable stores can be trusted to ship you what you actually purchased. If you're worried you can just have them package the item(s) and bring it to the Post Office yourself. Be aware that the Post Office will open the package to inspect it before shipping, so you might have to repackage it again. The Post Office does have several size boxes for sale, but nothing large enough to put a carpet into. You can ship the package either ground or air with the much faster air service about 50% more and well worth it.

Enquiries & Booking

To enquire about or to book a personalised private vehicle and driver for your shopping trip, please call us on +44(0)7713 615829 or send an email to enquiries@erlebnis-tours-maroc.com to discuss your requirements and prices.
 

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