Why bother with shopping at a mall when you can wander the stalls of Marrakech or Fez (You can view our Fez travel guide like a local? Souks—the outdoor bazaars found in Morocco’s cities that are packed with spices, rugs, clothing, handmade soaps and other goods—do not allow vehicle traffic, so the only distractions are other people and the occasional donkey. These stalls display their wares from the ground up just as they did in ancient times.
If you know what you want to purchase you can do so right away or you can just walk through the souk until you get a feel for the way business is performed. Large souks can be very confusing and people have gotten turned around so it may be a good idea to hire a local guide to escort you. The smaller souks are more easily navigated; this may be a good place for people new to the environment to begin.
Shopping in Morocco is not to be hurried. Bargaining is expected at the stalls of the souks. Though you are expected to haggle over the price of items, you should only begin the process if you truly plan on buying something. Although sellers do bargain, they have the patience to drive a hard bargain, so be prepared.
An exception to this are the vendors with fixed prices at some of the souks in the Marrakech medina. These businesses are often non-profits or sell wares that are made by a cooperative (usually one that supports women artisans). These cooperatives generally help the women pay for care and training for their children.
High Atlas rugs are coveted for their craftsmanship and quality. In the souks of Marrakech you will be rewarded with a large selection from which to choose, and you’ll also be able to find a large selection of Berber carpets as well. Larger souks have larger selections, but you may have to visit several shops to find just the right carpet or rug.
Do you have your heart set on buying new leather goods while in Morocco? Fez has one of the largest tanneries in Africa and is the place to go for purses, babouches or slippers. Taroudannt is well known for its rich display of silver jewelry, which is influenced by the Saharan tribes and Jewish silversmiths.
No shopping experience is complete until you’ve worked up an appetite in the process. Not to worry, though. In addition to the carpets, jewelry, clothing and other goods you can buy, you’ll also find fresh produce and other food items. So eat up … and just keep shopping!
Posted by JoAnna Haugen, managing editor at Journey Beyond Travel and author of Kaleidoscopic Wandering.
Photo by wanderer_by_trade.