Morocco: A paradise of beautiful items
Morocco is a fascinating and exotic destination with many different reasons to visit. With a rich and ancient artisan tradition, the temptation of unbridled shopping is everywhere. While you wander through the medina of any city in the country, no matter how large or small, whether you are going up north to Tangier, central to Casablanca or south to Marrakesh, you will have the opportunity to take in the stunning views, and learn more about the lives of the locals and their traditional goodies. Most of the products are either hand-made locally or made with bio products. There are a lot of things you can take back home, but here are the things you can only find in Morocco!
Marrakech is one of the best cities in Morocco for shopping. In order to make the best of your Marrakech holiday, you may want to consider joining a shopping tour. Armed with a Marrakech map, it will also help you get your bearings around the city.
How to shop in Morocco
It’s impossible not to be distracted by the countless shops as far as the eye can see. Colorful plush rugs, hand woven blankets, leather bags of every shape and size, fragrant spices – you’ll need an extra suitcase just to get everything home! And while you can get most of these treasures at amazing prices, those prices don’t come easily. You’ll need to do a lot of negotiating and endure a fair bit of hassle. There are no prices listed on any items and when you ask they’ll offer a starting price that is at least twice as much as it should be. Read on to learn how to figure out what things should cost and how to get them for the price you want.
You’ll first find that very few things that you can purchase in Morocco are truly one of a kind. The same bags, rugs, and blankets are sold in pretty much every store, in every souk, in every town in Morocco. There are variations of course, in color and in quality, but due to the sheer number of similar items being sold it’s pretty easy to figure out what items should cost.
Before you actually buy anything, spend a day price checking. You’ll find that the shops near busy main squares are generally more expensive while shops down little side alleyways are generally cheaper. They pay more in rent and pass the costs on to the consumer. Don’t start negotiating yet, just get a lay of the land.
Negotiating in Morocco is expected and welcomed so be prepared to bargain with shopkeepers. You’ll notice that prices are not listed on any items (even in the small food markets in the souks) so you’ll have to ask the store owner how much any item that you’re interested in purchasing will cost. You may notice that it takes them a moment to give a price – they are probably sizing you up. We had several shop owners tell us that they charge a price that is 3 times higher to “old people with money”.
You’ll also notice that the price comes down quite a bit as soon as you say no and start to walk away. They’ll call after you “how much you pay?” “I give you special price!”
Let’s say the price starts at 400 Dhs ($40 USD) and you counter at 200 Dhs. You’ll be able to tell almost immediately how far on or off you are. If they pretend to be offended but continue with negotiations, you can probably end up somewhere in the middle, say around 300 Dhs. If they just shake their head “no” and pay you no more mind, they probably aren’t very interested in budging.
What to buy
Ceramics are a highlight of any shopping experience in Morocco. The bright colors and intricate designs are a fascinating attraction of the Medina, however, there is a long history and tradition of ceramics in Morocco. Practiced for thousands of years, the art of ceramics has strong influences from Islamic and Spanish invaders.
You may be familiar with the ubiquitous Moroccan ashtray… Or you would know the design of Moroccan tiles or Moroccan mosaic?
Throughout the markets, the range of styles, colors and shapes can be overwhelming. Mostly, you will find floral and geometric patterns with fine details, deep colors and intricate designs. The objects you can find range from the very small to the very large: Moroccan cookware known as tajine, Moroccan dishware, jars, Moroccan plates, vases, platters, tiles and boxes. The choice often comes down to how much you can carry home.
Argan trees grow in the south region of Morocco, so it is definitely the place to buy argan oil and ensure that it is as natural as possible, made in the traditional Berber way. Moroccans use argan oil for culinary and cosmetic reasons, and although it is widely famous for its benefits on all kinds of hair, it is also extremely efficient on acne and skin in general.
The pottery you will find in Morocco is truly magnificent, and you’ll only find it here. They are hand-painted ceramics that come in all shapes and forms, colors and sizes. They are the perfect gift to give to relatives, as they sit nicely in any house as décor—just make sure to pack them carefully, as they are known to break in suitcases.
These embroidered leather cushions are a popular souvenir to buy in Morocco as they can be unstuffed and can pack down small to fit in your luggage. They are also sold in quaint boutiques in the US for about 6 times the price you’ll pay here.
The price for a pouf varies based on quality and size. The smaller, colored poufs will run you about 200 Dhs while the larger, brown leather poufs with embroidery will run around 500 Dhs. If you don’t like the color it is easy for them to darken it with oil (but not lighten).
Spices are an essential part of the culture and local cuisine and should definitely be part of your Morocco shopping! In Marrakech, the Place of spices has many stores laden with colorful Moroccan spices. I see it as exciting as shopping for shoes!
Carpets & Rugs
Another ancient tradition of Morocco still passed on from mother to daughter in far-flung villages, is the crafting of rugs. Usually made of wool and carefully knotted or weaved by hand, Moroccan tribal rugs are everywhere and represent a very important part of the Moroccan art of living. There are many sizes and styles, often created by Berber tribes, and a rug can be a wonderful addition to a home. It could be one of your most prized Morocco souvenirs.
Shopping for a Moroccan rug is a careful and considered endeavor though. It will likely take you to the heart of the Moroccan souk. You have to do your research and have a good think about whether such an item would fit into your home. Also, prices can vary wildly and you need to prepare for a hard negotiation.
Babouches and djellaba
Seeing rows of Moroccan leather slippers or “babouche” is very evocative of Morocco. They also make for great photography… When I shop in the Medina, the colors and textures fascinate me, I can spend hours selecting my favorites.
I don’t know many people who admit to wearing slippers at home but in my opinion, the Moroccan babouche slippers are the most comfortable thing. Quality Moroccan slippers should be soft and mold to your feet after just a few wears. You can also find babouche shoes with a thicker rubber sole.
And of course, you cannot leave Morocco without a djellaba, a Moroccan dress for both men and women. For women, they usually come in a variety of colors, material and patterns. Actually, the locals buy their own piece of cloth and take it to a tailor to get their djellabas custom made. Men, however, have a limited choice. As their hobbies don’t usually include fashion, most of the time they buy ready-made djellabas from a shop in very neutral colors: black, olive, or grey for example.
Keep in mind that different cities carry different treasures so if you find something you love, don’t move on to a new city expecting to be able to find it there. Just buy it or you’ll regret it later!
Or you can easily book some of those shopping tours that we’re doing 😉