Souks (markets) can be found in many of Morocco’s cities but the cities with the biggest and expansive shopping areas lie within Marrakesh and Fez. The daily life in the ancient walls of the medinas of Fez and Marrakesh haven’t changed in centuries. There are tiny shops and stalls where people will haggle over a glass of really sweet mint tea (Morocco’s national drink). Veiled women walk around the narrow passageways and craftsmen pound designs on brass, and the echoes of everyday life reverberate through the marketplace.
In Marrakesh, the heart of the shopping experience happens at the Djemaa El Fna, and it is a must-do activity on any Morocco trip. In this square, there are performers and lots of sights that last all the way into the evening. There are snake charmers, watersellers who have brass cups dangling from their chests and lots of fresh orange juice stalls offering some of the tastiest orange juice that you will ever try. Behind the square you can find the souk, with miles of twisting walkways, where you can find a wide array of goods.
Specialty souks within the souk are devoted to fabrics, spices, meats, brass and ironwork, clothing, and other wares. The meat souk, with its open-air displays of goat heads, sheep feet and live chickens, is best experienced in the morning hours, before the heat of day turns the sometimes stagnant air foul.
One of the greatest souk experiences is to visit a carpet seller or rug merchant. Expect to spend half a day in the store and drink glass after glass of mint tea over negotiations for one of Morocco’s top products. Prices for carpets are generally half of what you will pay in the UK and arrangements can be made with merchants for shipping and delivery to be included in the negotiated price, resulting in a fantastic bargain and souvenir of your Morocco Trip.
Berber carpets: The Berber carpets are the most famous type of carpet that you can buy in Morocco. These are usually handmade, with naturally dyed wool. Colors range from bright and cheerful to faded. Some Berber carpets are older and some are antiques.
Fez carpets: Fez carpets are very densely knotted, of excellent quality, with extremely intricate patterns. Fez carpets are the most expensive type of carpet that you can buy in Morocco. Fez carpets will always have a tag indicating the quality.
Kilims: Kilims are beautiful rugs that are much cheaper to buy. They are usually made from wool or silk or a combination of the two and make great wall hangings.
Fine Leatherwork: Fine leatherwork is sold in souks throughout all of Morocco; however, the best selection is definitely found in Fez. Fez is home to an extensive tannery, one of Africa’s most photographed sites and major tourist attractions. The leather produced in this tannery is some of the area’s finest. If you are looking for something to buy you can purchase leather camel toys (about £2-4), purses (£5+), and babouches (soft leather slippers) for (about £2-20). These are the most popular leather items sold in the Fez tannery store.
Traditional Dress: Another great 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 hood) are available in different styles. The materials range from polyester to silk, and prices can start at £10 and go up to about £500 for an extra special one.
Food and spices: Travellers will be especially interested in the spices that Morocco has to offer, and you cannot return home from your Morocco travels without buying some. Every medina has a few spice shops and you should visit one just to see and smell the variety. There are various mixes you can buy, and the popular choices are a heady blend of Moroccan spices called “Head of the Store.” You can purchase saffron for about £1 per gram and Moroccan curry, which is a different blend to Indian curry.
Moroccans also love their olives and export a huge amount. They come in many flavours with the sour, lemony kind being the most popular. Olives are served with most meals and as part of tagines and couscous dishes. We enjoyed the variety, particularly the garlic and wine flavored olives, which are also very popular with tourists.
Tips for Souk Shoppers:
Carry around some Moroccan coins with you for tipping. The going rate is 1-5 dirhams. Negotiation is key when buying something in Morocco and keep the process friendly but remain firm. If you give a final offer and you are allowed to walk out of the shop, then you have underestimated the value. When haggling, do not seem too interested in the item (even if you are), and do not be afraid to tell them you will have a look around. 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 buys in the souk. If you’re planning a visit to the souk,s try and avoid Fridays as this is the Muslim holy day and most shops and stalls will close at around noon. Watch your belongings as pickpockets roam the souks. And be careful of children as the markets can be very busy and it is easy to get lost.
For more inspiration and to build your perfect Morocco trip visit Morocco Travel Plan .