The souks of the Marrakech Medina at Djemaa el-Fna are a shoppers paradise.
On this recent trip to the city of constant excitement we strolled through the souks and were amazed at every corner. There were so many beautiful items to gawk at. They all seemed to shimmer in their own way creating a yellow-brick road of sorts that led us through the maze of shopping alleys.
If you’re headed to Morocco and wondering what to do in Marrakech be sure to spend at least a couple days just exploring the souks. You can get anything and everything (from shoes to baskets and from pastries to batteries) in the souks. Even if you hate shopping you won’t be able to get enough of the souks as they are a great cultural scene perfect for people watching.
Tips for enjoying the souks :
Take Your Time – A lot of people come to Marrakech to do some serious shopping, and in retrospect, I really wish I had done more. Initially, the souks are a bit intimidating and approaching a shop seems a little nerve racking, so my advice is if you want to shop, spend the first day just looking around, snapping photos and taking note of everything on offer in the souks. Approach a couple shops to get a feel for the bargaining process. Make the following day your big shopping day, start small and then as your shopping confidence grows work up to the big items you want.
Bring Something To Trade – even chewing gum will help get you a great deal. During the bartering process throw in your item and watch their faces light up. Everyone loves getting a good dealer including the sellers in the souks and it helps when you can give them something that might be hard to get in Marrakech. Trading also helps alleviate serious bargaining matches and gets a smile from all people involved. It’s especially good if you can bring small items like gum, LCD flashlights and small tools. Next time we go I will be sure to stock up on small items to trade with, it makes the purchase much more fun and helps get a great deal.
Watch out! – Yes, you’ll be enamored by the endless amounts of glittering jewels, teapots and coins. You’ll follow your nose by the wafting smell of pastries and roasting nuts. You’ll feel like you are in a completely different world and find yourself gawking at wares you only thought existed in a Pier 1 catalog. Just remember to watch out around you – not only do people walk through souks, donkeys also stroll through and motorbikes speed through at speeds that seem very unsafe to the uninitiated (you & me). A couple of times I was looking above and around me and almost got swiped by a couple bikes. While you’re muttering ‘oh wow’ to yourself a million times, just remember to keep a clear view of what is going on around you and look out for blind corners with speeding bikers.
Get Lost & Have Fun – The souks are HUGE, beautiful & confusing. Don’t get stressed about getting lost – you will get lost but ultimately you will end up back in Djemaa el-Fna Square. It’s strange how it happens but each time we were lost we ended up right where we needed to be. Wandering around, getting lost and taking it all in is just part of the fun. Enjoy it and know you’ll find the way out eventually. If you get truly stuck you can always ask the shop owners who will point you in the right direction.
Bring Small Change – Most of the sellers in the souks will take Euros and U.S. dollars along with the Moroccan Dirham so remember to bring plenty of small change. It becomes a lot harder to bargain when you only have large bills. Having change in your pocket is a great way to add a little value to your offer without costing you a lot of money. Keep your money separated as well–sellers are more likely to give you a good deal if you can show them your empty pockets proving to them all you have is a certain amount of money. You don’t want to put all your cards on the table when you pull out a huge wad of bills.
Here are some photos of life in the souks. Enjoy!
Were always looking for good shopping tips, so if you have any you’d like to share, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Editor’s note: We originally published this story on Travel Thru San Diego, in conjunction with LowCostHolidays.com who we partnered with for five days in Marrakech. While we’ve made some editorial changes for this reprint, the core of the story and photos remains the same.
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