As a popular tourist destination, Morocco is renowned for a few things it does better than anywhere else in the world. Firstly you have the iconic local cuisine that Morocco is famed for; B’ssara soups, couscous, mint tea, spiced stews and minced lamb cooked in a tagine, it’s all unforgettable, unique and absolutely delicious.
Furthermore, you can’t talk about Morocco without mentioning the fact that it is one of the world’s most vibrant and exciting destinations for shopping. Known for its gorgeous artisanal crafts, from incredibly detailed silk embroidery and Berber rugs, to exquisite glass lanterns, clothing, spices and oils. There is something for everyone, and a day spent shopping makes for an exciting (and often exhausting) experience.
Souks (markets) are a huge aspect of everyday life in Morocco, and are among the country’s greatest attractions. They’re found in every town and city across the country, with the larger cities such as Fez or Marrakech featuring seemingly endless labyrinths of individual markets; each devoted to particular goods such as clothing, spices, iron works or rugs.
The markets themselves are packed with people, both tourists and locals alike, with sellers keen to make themselves heard above the crowds. The size of the souks, the number of people there and the sheer spectacle of it all can sometimes get a little bit overwhelming if it happens to be your first time visiting. Here are a few handy tips to bear in mind to ensure you get the best from the experience.
- Winter is perhaps the best season to visit as temperatures average 22 degrees Celsius between November and March. The summer is still great to visit, but a day’s shopping is made a touch more tiring as the temperatures soar.
- Sometimes overly eager and pushy ‘guides’ will insist on following you around markets with ideas of where best to shop. Unfortunately, more often than not they work on commission for particular shops or stalls and don’t have your interests at heart. When approached, simply reply with a firm ‘no’ and walk away if you’re made to feel uncomfortable.
- When buying souvenirs anywhere in Morocco, always consider how you are going to get things home. Should you buy larger items such as rugs and lanterns, they can be shipped back directly through the shops. Just be sure to insist on seeing shipping information, and just to be sure get as much proof of purchase information.
A big part of shopping anywhere in Morocco (asides from grocery stores and standard high street shops) is that you should always feel comfortable being able to haggle for the best price possible. Sellers will always set their prices much higher than what the goods are actually worth in anticipation of this, so it’s always worth working out how much you’d be willing to pay back home, and then taking it from there.
Be in the right frame of mind for it. Haggling can be a lot of fun, so keep your energy up and stay positive! At the same time you don’t want to appear overly keen; demonstrating a level of indifference will give you a bit more bargaining power as the seller will always be looking to make a sale.
Stay patient and don’t let anyone railroad you into making a purchase that you’re not 100% happy with. Offer a third of the price initially as you’re likely to end up paying half.
At the heart of Marrakech is the labyrinth of shops and stalls that make up the souk. The sheer number of shops and stalls is remarkable, and they seem to twist and turn for miles and miles at a time. Historically the souk was laid out in accordance to what was being sold, and very little has changed in this 1000 year old market. Each section of the souk is dedicated to its own speciality; from spices and ironworks, to clothing, rugs and lanterns.
The Kissaria is a series of shoulder-width alleys that are lined with stalls selling cotton, blankets, kaftans and clothing.
The centre of the carpet trade is known as Criée Berbère, and these dimly lit passageways are the place to be if you’re looking to pick up a traditional rug.
You’ll find that the more expensive goods are situated in the middle of the souk with the cheaper items spread out from there. The souk is open daily between 9am and 7pm, and is closed Friday mornings.
On occasion you might just feel like stepping away from the hustle and bustle of the city’s main souk to find some shopping that’s a little less chaotic! Try browsing the Sidi Ghanem area on the outskirts of the city to find made-for-export design studios that sell direct from the outlets here.
Anitan is the place to be to buy rugs away from the souks. You’ll pay slightly higher prices here, but the collection of Moroccan tribal and central Asian textiles are guaranteed to be of a very high quality, and they can ship all goods home. (Rue Yves Saint Laurent Majorelle)
Herboriste Avicenne is a one hundred year old herb specialist shop that is packed with oils, fragrances, herbs and spices. The staff here are on hand to show you what’s what, and will even make custom goods for you based on your favourite scents. (172, Rahba Kdima)
33 Rue Majorelle is a unique and contemporary store that sells items that are imaginative spins on traditional Moroccan goods. Try Kaowa – the café next door, for a delicious and cooling smoothie.(33 Rue Yves Saint Laurent Majorelle)
And for when you’re done with shopping for the day, head to Jemaa El Fna, which is in the main square in Marrakech, to find a market that comes alive at night with a huge selection of various food stalls.
Marrakech is easily accessible from Agadir, and with the new motorway that is now up and running, it’s less than a 3 hour drive. Coaches are available at around 100Dh (£6-8) per person, or a taxi can be booked for roughly 1000Dh (approx. £80) with the potential for the price to be haggled down a bit.
You could even strike up a deal with certain taxi drivers where you agree on 1500Dh for a return journey, with half being paid on arrival in Marrakech, and half paid on return to Agadir.
Wherever you stay in Morocco, you’re bound to be amazed at the vibrancy, the dazzling colour and exciting pace of the broad and interesting shopping scene that’s found there.