A mystical labyrinth in the heart of Marrakech, the Souks of Medina are a sensory explosion. From bric-à-brac to freshly ground spices, this is one location you don’t want to miss.
Before jetting off to Marrakech, I knew that I couldn’t resist a spot of shopping while I was in the city. I mean, where better than in the blazing sun, in a souk, bargaining for your purchases.
I mentally drew up a list of things I wanted to get my hands on; some beautiful crockery, fresh spices for cooking with back home, kaftans and some good quality sweets that I’ve been missing so much. Would I succeed?
With 1000 MAD (approx £65) tucked away in my handbag, I found myself in Jemaa El-Fnaa, right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. The square was swarming with people- tourists and locals alike.
By day, Jemaa El-Fnaa is full of vendors with dancing monkeys in t-shirts and diapers, snake charmers and women offering you henna. My advice? Steer clear of them. By night, it transforms into a vibrant street food market. Sadly, I didn’t get to visit the square at night but it is a place I definitely need to go back again to experience in all its glory.
Heading to Marrakech soon? Nervous about going to the souks for the first time? Here are my top tips for tackling the souks of Marrakech which will make you a pro in no time!
The souks are crazy!
Keep your wits about you. As I said above, it’s a sensory overload. From the intense smell of petrol, dodging motorbikes whizzing past you, men with fruit carts and mules making their way through the maze of the souk to the sound of stall holders shouting at each other, it can be overwhelming. People will barge past you to get to their destination. They aren’t being rude, it’s just the way of life.
Can you afford it?
If you see something you like, think about what maximum price you are willing to pay before asking how much it is. Once you have a figure in your head, ask, then haggle like your life depends on it. If you’re told the item is 100 MAD, divide it in half and start from there. I got a lot of great purchases using this calculation. Of course, this only works on items that do not have a set price. Although, when I spotted an amazing tea-cup set for 20 MAD and I only had 12 left, they gave me it. Happy bunny. Bartering is all about luck. Just keep at it and you’ll find your mojo.
Bad at maths like me?
Download a currency converter app onto your phone. I used Currency Converter Plus to quickly convert between MAD and Pounds. It was a lifesaver all over Marrakech and as it’s a free app within the AppStore, I would highly recommend you all download it no matter where you are travelling to. I know I’m going to use it when I jet off to Germany at the end of the month.
Be prepared to walk away
Say what? You want to shop, yes, but sometimes walking away from a purchase right in front of you will work out to be the best move you’ve made. If you keep the points above in your head, it will all make sense. Say you’ve found a stall selling amazing crockery but the price is a little steep, you’ve tried bartering like your life depended on it and the owner still will not budge, walk away. The outcome will be one of two things, the owner will chase after you and agree to the price you want to pay or another stall a few doors down will have a similar piece (if not the exact same) for sale, potentially at a lower price. If all else fails, go back to the original stall again if you really want the item.
Think before you buy
That’s rich coming from someone like me but you are in a foreign country. That means you have to take a plane back home (unless you are on some insane road trip!). You can get carried away in the souk but you have to think sensibly. Can it fit in your suit case? How heavy is it? Will it get damaged?
I bought a rather large pouf, bowls, plates, kaftans, delicate tea glasses, spices and rose buds. Luckily, my case was under the max weight when I arrived to Marrakech. I made sure that I wrapped all the breakable items in clothes a good few times and then stuffed them within the pouf. Extra padding to ensure my money wasn’t wasted.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure if everything would fit within my suitcase, but I was lucky. Make sure you have enough room before you buy and if all else fails, purchase a bigger bag for your hand luggage!
These top tips for tackling the souks of Marrakech will ensure you are a master of the souks in no time. Don’t be intimidated in your surroundings.. Enjoy yourself and soak up the atmosphere around you. It is an unforgettable experience.
Have you ever been to Marrakech? Hit up the sinks? What did you buy? What are your own top tips? Let me know in the comments below!