Souk Shopping

When you imagine your upcoming journey to Morocco, one vision you’re almost certain to conjure is the bustling activity of a traditional market. Colours and sounds fill the air as vendors ply their wares and savvy shoppers haggle for the best prices. All the while people stroll to and fro, and wandering salesmen offer their snacks and souvenirs to all and sundry.

The traditional Moroccan market is known as a souk, also spelt as souq, and it’s as much a cornerstone of Moroccan culture as mint tea or a good tagine. Whether your deep in the heart of Marrakech or out in the smaller communities that still live the old ways, the souk is here to stay, and you’ll want to shop smartly to make the most of what’s on offer.

Sniffing out a bargain

The first thing to bear in mind about souks, particularly those with history, is that they’re organised so that the most valuable goods are right in the centre.

In other words, if some old school bling is very much your thing, the gold and jewellery is going to be awaiting your discerning eye at the very heart of the market.

Of course, getting there might not be so simple, not only due to all the distracting other things to look at, but also because there are people every which way, and a few cheeky monkeys clambering about for good measure. If you’re feeling truly lost and a little bit peckish, use your nose. From pastries and doughnuts to fresh fruit and the famous street cuisine of Morocco, don’t be afraid to be sent by the scent when navigating the souk.

The spirit of the people

Staying polite yet assertive is always the key to strolling the souk. Moroccan people are friendly, but tourists are always particularly popular with street performers and local fast-talking sales-types. Don’t be afraid to say no. You won’t tread on any toes and souk salesmen always take the loss of a potential sale graciously.

Of course, with everything from pottery to olive jars to sandals and sun-hats for sale, it might be hard to say no to anything. It’s all so artfully crafted that your initial budget for the day might start to double in your mind, but those of you with a gift for the gab will be in your element here.

Why? Because the ancient art of the haggle is the cultural norm here in the souk. As is the Moroccan way, expect outrageous jokes and a bit of banter to form part of the fun, but always abide by the unspoken rule. That is to say, once you ask how much something is, you’re pretty much committing to a purchase, so if you’re on the fence and your question about price is a deciding factor, you’re starting your negotiations on the back foot.

When you’re ready to buy, ask about the price, make your own offer, take your time and have fun with the haggling. It’s all in the spirit of fun, and Moroccan people appreciate customers who can haggle with some wit.

Step into yesteryear

One important aspect of souks to bear in mind during your visit is that they’ve stayed the same way for around a thousand years. That means you’re as likely to find a basket weaver or a rug maker as you are a blacksmith or a leather tanner.

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