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.
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.
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.
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
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 &
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
The place to find Fez plates and dishes, enamelled glass, hammered
copper sugar bowls, small bottles, candleware and camel leather lamp
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.
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
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 youre planning on
buying something, its 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
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.
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.
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.
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 /
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
to discuss your requirements and prices.