Morocco Trip Report: The Souk

We just got back from ten days in Marrakesh, and I’m going to dive right in with the good stuff: the souk! It’s a crazy place – hundreds of little stalls and shops (and some big ones), packed into tiny streets, filled with thousands of beautiful things.

We were travelling with the kids, who are seven and four, so we took the advice of our hotel owner and arrived as it opened around 10:30 am, when it’s less busy. I would have happily stayed all day but it can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re not used to haggling, so we only stayed for a few hours each time we went. We avoided Jemaa El Fnaa – the main square – because of the hassle you get from pretty much everyone you pass, and stuck to the smaller streets and market squares.

I learnt quickly not to even ask about anything I wasn’t absolutely prepared to buy. Some shop owners were lovely and friendly, but others got rather grumpy (occasionally bordering on aggressive) if you engaged with them and then didn’t buy. I found that a bit frustrating – I wanted to know about all the things!

I’d planned my shopping list before I arrived, and went on the principle that if I could buy stuff for less than I’d pay in England, I’d be happy. Top of my list was a Beni Ourain rug for our living room. You can buy an 8′ x 10′ in the UK for about £700 – £1500 (or more). I asked at our hotel how much they’d expect to pay, and they reckoned that 3500 to 4500 dhms (£270 – £350) was a good price.

I got a bit over excited by all the prettiness (not an uncommon occurrence for me) and fell in love with a massive Berber kilim while I was there too. After two hours of discussion, I paid 7800 dirhams (£600) for both rugs.

I suspect I could’ve got them for a bit less based on the reaction of the shop owner (he seemed rather pleased), but based on how much they’d cost at home, I was more than happy. The kilim I bought (below) is huge – almost 10′ x 13′ – and it would be close to £1000 in the UK, if not more. So as far as I’m concerned, between the two rugs, I saved at least a grand. Score.

The rugs were all packaged up for me and I just checked them as hold baggage when we flew home.

I also bought a few other goodies including a Moroccan wedding blanket cushion cover for 150 dhm (£11.50), and a couple of Berber baskets – the type that go for £45 on Etsy – for 65 dhms each (£5).

I saw leather pouffe covers for 250 dhm (less than £20!), and also bought an African bronze head figure for 300 dhms (£24).
We stopped for lunch on one of the days at Nomad, again at the recommendation of our hotel owner – not sure what we’d have done without him! It was super cute and served insanely good food. It was also really nice to escape the souk for an hour or two and admire it from the calmness of the rooftop terrace.

The souks are very used to tourists, and most merchants speak English and/or French. You can hire guides to help you navigate, but we were told that they just take you to places where they make commission, and we had a little map that did the job just fine. I’ll show you where all my finds have ended up now we’re home in another post.

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