Travel Diary // What I bought in Morocco

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.  

What I bought in 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.

What I bought in Morocco

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.  

What I bought in Morocco

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. 

What I bought in Morocco
What I bought in Morocco

Can't wait to show you all these beautiful treasures in their new home, follow me on Instagram to see more. 

Travel Diary // Morocco the Souks

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!  

Marrakech

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! 

Marrakech souk

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. 

Moroccan souk

Here are my 10 tips for shopping the souks:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.  
  8. 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. 
  9. 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." 
  10. 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.  
moroccan lanterns
souk in Marrakech
moroccan souk
Moroccan textiles
Moroccan souk
Moroccan souk
Moroccan souk
Moroccan souks

There is so much more info out there on shopping the souks, but those are my lessons and I hope you found them helpful. 

Travel Diary // Marrakech, a quick guide

Our flight was delayed, so when we arrived to Marrakech, it was already dark.  We had to wait until the morning to catch a glimpse of this mysterious city.  On first sight it's not all that beautiful, it's dusty, to put it kindly, and the people are the most interesting part.  Until you come upon a beautiful, grand doorway, and behind it is a hidden treasure.  Colorful tiles, beautiful architecture and gracious hosts offering you mint tea.   We had the unfortunate luck to have rain nearly the entire time we there, on top of that it was chilly and we were ill-prepared, but we made the best of it.  

Marrakech Streets

We stayed in Riad Kaiss, a lovely place, in the center part of town, the Medina, and a short walk from the main square, Jemaa El Fnaa.  I woke up to flowers floating in the fountain in the center of the stunning courtyard and I knew I would love this place.  The courtyard just outside our room was covered in stunning tiles and nooks filled with beautiful textiles to relax and enjoy breakfast.  

Riad Kaiss
Riad Kaiss
Riad Kaiss

We hired a guide to take us around for the first day, for about $100 (for two people), he took us to all the major points in the city, gave us a quick over view of the sights and got us acquainted with the city and the souks.  At the time I thought hiring the guide was worth it, but with a little more research we probably could have done without.  

The first stop on our tour was a must-see, the Jardin Majorelle, also called the YSL gardens.  Even if you are not into gardens, you need to check this one out.  Yves Saint Laurent lived on the property and spent much of his time here.  The cacti and colors are a feast for your eyes! 

YSL Garden
YSL Garden
YSL Gardens

Next we went to the Bahia Palace, a beautiful, colorful, detail-filled palace once used by the king's advisor and his many wives.  If you are in Marrakech for more than a few days I would suggest a visit.  It's beautiful and only costs about a $1 to visit.  

Bahia Palace

After we took a quick tour of the souks, but much much more on that tomorrow.  And we ended the day in Jemaa El Fnaa, "the big square."  This is the main square in Marrakech, with endless hustle and bustle, then some more hustle as vendors try to sell you everything from t-shirts to spices and performers charm snakes, play with monkeys and draw henna tattoos on tourtist's hands.  Many people watch the sunset over the Koutoubia Mosque from a rooftop cafe.  

Jemaa El Fnaa Square
Colorful Moroccan Women

On another day, we wandered over to La Mamounia, a stunning hotel just outside the medina.  I'll call this place a "must-see" as well.  After several days shopping in the souks, this place was a lovely oasis.  You're welcomed into a courtyard of lovely emerald tiles, then you walk inside and you are transported back in time.  This place was booming in the 1940's when the likes of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt frequented and you picture what it would have looked like filled with rich hodnobbers.  The drapes, the bar, even the spot where the band plays looks as though you walked onto a movie set of a period piece.  We had lunch, and a cocktail, which only seemed appropriate, on the patio below.  The gardens and the pool were both gorgeous as well. 

La Mamounia
La Mamounia
La Mamounia
Marrakech
Marrakech Alley

I'll be back tomorrow with lots of info and tips on shopping the souks.