It's just about here! We leave for our family trip to Iceland in just a few days! I am could not be more excited to escape with my boys! Iceland in early September is about 55 degrees, with a low of upper 40s. Unfortunately Oliver, now 1 1/2 has only been wearing shorts and t-shirts for the last three months and has outgrown nearly all of his warmer clothes, so we had to basically buy his entire fall wardrobe in preparation for this trip. Full disclosure, we were down to one pair of shoes that fit, Crocs. So we bought a pair of sneakers and a pair of the cutest stinking hiking boots I've ever seen! I packed a variety of layering pieces a medium-weight jacket, and of course he needs a swim suit for the blue lagoon! I can't wait to share our photos and I'll be sure to update you on the packing lessons learned upon on return! Don't forget to follow along on instagram!
It would be just rude of me not to share with you the treasures I brought back from our shopping trip. As I mentioned, our main objective was to shop for inspiration for work, which was really great, better than I expected. We bought tons of bags, leather, fabric, straw for all sorts of amazing details and hand-made techniques. But, one can't spend four days shopping in the souks and not come home with a couple treasures of her own. Here's what I brought back from Morocco.
I bought a pair of snake slippers. This on-trend, shoe style were $15, $10 if you're a better negotiator than me. Ollie got a pair of moccasins too, as well as this adorable leather camel.
One thing I probably wold have spent more time browsing, had this been a personal trip, jewelry. There was so much beautiful silver jewelry with all my favorite stones, turquoise, onyx and moonstone. I could have spent hours treasure hunting for the perfect piece to take home. Though I did find this beautiful turquoise ring.
I also brought back a blanket, a small painting of the main square (I try to collect street art from every place I visit), and way too many products from the herbal shop.
And finally, a reason people travel to Marrakech, the rugs! I bought two. The first one was something I was actually looking for, a small rug for my bathroom, and I found it right away, checked that off my list and had no more reasons to stop in any more rug vendors. Of course the second rug didn't even need hunting, it may as well have been waving like a flag begging for me to bring it home, so I did.
Can't wait to show you all these beautiful treasures in their new home, follow me on Instagram to see more.
The souks. The mecca. The flea-marketer's dream. I was certainly in heaven here, though, after spending nearly four entire days lost in the mazes, two of them pouring down rain, it lost some of it's shine. I really didn't know what to expect, beyond rugs and Moroccan wedding blankets. But it was a gold mine! This market literally has EVERYTHING!
We were in luck, we were shopping for leather handbags, check! One of the amazing things is that many many of the items are handmade. Often you see artisans crafting and finishing goods as you shop. It's really neat. And for me it sometimes made haggling a little harder, as I watched the human touch that went into making it. My friend had even been eyeing a pair of shoes, that they didn't have in her size and the vendor told her that if she could come back in two days he would make them for her! It amazes me that something like that still exists!
Other items you'll find in the market include lanterns, textiles, straw bags, blankets, leather slippers (for everyone), iron work, copper work, spices, wood work, brass items, paintings, woven baskets, musical instruments, souvenirs, silver jewelry, tea, Moroccan dress/kaftans, and the list goes on.
Here are my 10 tips for shopping the souks:
- Before you set foot in the souks, make a stop at Ensemble Artisanal. It's a regulated market, not too far outside of the medina that's civilized and items are well-priced and prices are set by the government, so you generally don't haggle. You'll leave having a better idea what you should pay in the souks.
- Once you get into the souks haggle haggle haggle! That's what you do! And do not be afraid to low ball. They will come down, way down. And, if you went to Ensemble Artisanal, you'll be able to use that price to negotiate.
- Get a map that shows the layout of the souks. Here is a link to one, but we had an even better one and it really helped. We still got lost, but it was good to have the general idea of the layout.
- If you see something that you are more than 75% sure you want to spend your money on, buy it. It is hard, I mean really hard to find something again, once you have found it once. Trust me on this one.
- Use walking away as a haggling technique. This was my favorite and it worked almost every time, vendors often chased us down the corridor to accept my offer. Though one time, we walked away only to decide a few booths down that we really wanted to buy the bags and returned.
- Don't take directions from youths. Many, if not most people are trying to solicit money from you, our guide warned us that young men prey on lost tourists, show you the way out and then demand you pay them. Thus, we didn't trust anyone. Though many people were nice and did show us the way for free, not without pointing out their brother's spice shop on the way.
- Have a list for what you want to buy. I know this is a tough one, because you don't know what's there. But if you make a list a head of time with rug sizes you may need, people you need to buy for, etc, it'll make it easier to figure out what you do or don't need to spend your money on.
- When going into to make a purchase, especially a large purchase, like a rug, know your maximum, because the vendor will inevitably ask you what you want to pay.
- You will have to ignore a lot of "excuse me misses." And I even had a couple vendors make fun of my high-pitched "no thank you."
- Remember you don't need to buy everything! Yes, seeing the eye candy of the lanterns below, all lit up, you might think you need one, but if you have a tiny apartment with nowhere to hang it, don't buy it! I had to remind myself this tip several times.
There is so much more info out there on shopping the souks, but those are my lessons and I hope you found them helpful.