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.