SURVIVING A VISIT TO THE SOUKS OF MARRAKECH

Lanterns sold at the souks of Marrakech Morocco
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

If you are planning a visit to Marrakech, you will want to dedicate at least half a day to visiting the souks of Marrakech. The souks are a network of streets and alleyways in the heart of the old city- The Medina. Here you will find people selling anything and everything from shoes to rugs, lanterns, oils, bags the list goes on. Walking through a souk in Marrakesh is an experience for all of the senses. In this post we will be recounting our experiences in the Souks of Marrakech and sharing key bargaining tips and how to avoid getting lost as you wonder the network that are the souks.

Before we headed out to Marrakech, we made sure to do our research. We were warned about the cat calling and racist abuse (towards people of colour) that many before us had endured, so we were prepared. Though we did not receive any abuse, we did fall victim to one of the rules we were warned about before our departure- DO NOT FOLLOW ANYONE. If anyone offers to lead you around, they are not doing so out of the kindness of their heart- They want money.

If ANYONE offers to lead you around, they are not doing so out of the kindness of their heart- They want money.

We took a shuttle from our Hotel to the Medina. Upon arrival at the bus stop, we were met by a man who said he worked with the hotel and would show us to our destination. After about 5 minutes of following this man, we soon realized that he was leading us through certain stores where I am sure he has arranged some sort of commission if we were to buy anything. Once we realized what was happening, we kindly asked him to take us back to the bus where we proceeded to find our own way around.

What can you learn from our experience?

These are our top tips for surviving a visit to the souks in the Marrakech medina, Morocco.

DO NOT GO ALONE

Especially if you are a woman unfamiliar with the medina, I would not advise that you brave the souks by yourself. Many of the hotels also offer official tour guides for a fee, so this is an option that you can explore if you are interested. For instance our hotel offered this guide for a cost of 250 DH (25 euros).

GET A MAP

A favourite of mine is an app called Maps.me which is just an offline map that you can use to get around without incurring data roaming charges. Remember to download a map of the area while you are in a wifi area. While it is not as easy to use as google maps, it definitely helped to keep us oriented while we explored the area on our own.

BE PREPARED TO BARGAIN…

Unless you want to be ripped off, be prepared to learn the art of bargaining. Do your research on approximately how much things should cost and stick to it. You have to realize that these sales people are professionals- they haggle all day every day. They also know the true worth of these items and the price they are willing to let it go for. They know all the tricks in the book, so if you intend to get a fair price, there is no point being polite about this, you are going to have to learn some of those tricks.

  1. Do some research to find out how much the items should cost
  2. Know how much you are willing to pay and stick to it
  3. When they tell you their price, insist on 50% of that price (try to stay under your budget)
  4. Go back and forth until you agree on a price that YOU are comfortable with.

… BUT STILL BE READY TO WALK AWAY

I have found that the sales people in the Souks are relentless and have an answer for everything. If you tell them you don’t have enough money, they have a solution for that. They accept credit card payment (I would not advise you to do that 👀) and hotel delivery where you can pay the balance that you don’t have on you.

Do not give in though! If you are not getting anywhere with your haggling (you are not getting anywhere near the price that you are prepared to pay), be ready to walk away. Politely and respectfully thank them for their time and walk away. If they really want that sale, they may even run after you with that lower price.

KEEP CALM

The hustle and bustle of the medina can certainly be a lot to handle- Don’t get too frustrated. When it comes to dealing with aggressive sales people, try to remember this is their job. This is what they do all day to provide for their families. Also remember that you are in a foreign country where you do not want to make enemies. Do not be rude- if you find a situation that is starting to get you frustrated, just walk away.

STAY ALERT

The sights, sounds and smells of the souks are a lot to take in. While you browse through the shops, you have to be careful to avoid hitting other pedestrians, people on motorbikes, donkeys, stepping on cats etc. Do not expect anyone to stop or slow down for you, so be prepared to move quickly out of the way of incoming traffic.There is a lot for your senses to take in, so try to be alert.

Do not expect anyone to stop or slow down for you, so be prepared to move quickly out of the way of incoming traffic.

The business of the medina also makes it a great location for pick pockets, so make sure you keep your belongings close to you at all times.

SMILE

A smile is a universal language understood by all. Crack some jokes with the locals, have fun- you are on holidays after all!IMG_2679IMG_2694

Are you planning a trip to the Souks of Marrakech? If so, I hope that you have found these tips useful. If you have visited the souks of Marrakech, I would love to hear about your experiences and other tips that you may have.