Shopping in Morocco
Shopping in Morocco is certainly a memorable experience. The narrow streets, the bright colours, the chitter chatter amongst shopkeepers and customers. The sights and sounds of a souk are a feast for the eyes and ears. When you go, remember that forewarned is forearmed. Learn all you can before you go, it will be quite a different experience to shopping in the Western world. For one thing there are no fixed prices and most things are haggled for. This is completely natural in this part of the world, and Moroccans are friendly and offer a warm welcome to western tourists, but you need to be prepared.
There is a balance to be maintained when haggling with Moroccan sellers. While needing to respect their ways and their culture you also need to realise that haggling to Moroccans is part of tradition, and they fully expect you to do it. It’s a form of communication between two people and with all forms of communication one must always remember – be polite and respectful. The first thing you notice is that there are no price tags; this is because most goods sold in Morocco are negotiable. Most Westerners may be not be very good at this as it is something they don’t have to do very often – but there is an art to it and it can be done.
If you feel a little apprehensive about going out into a souk for the first time then perhaps it might be good to start in some of the state run arts and crafts shops available. These arts and craft stalls are run by the government and have fixed prices that you won’t find in the souks, you can find them in any tourist resort, but remember that on our tours we will take you to these stalls and it will give you an idea of the prices you may be likely to pay when you do go out to the souks. The prices are naturally higher, but it does give you an early experience of Moroccan shopping.
When you eventually go out to the souks, make sure you are certain of the item you want to buy. Don’t start bargaining if you are not entirely sure you want it. However, at the same don’t look too enamoured of the item you wish to buy either, you may find it’s hard to bring the seller down in price! It might be a good idea to offer a third or half of what the seller is quoting and take it from there. Some advise that you should walk away if you cannot agree on a price, while this is sometimes a good idea, if he doesn’t follow you then you can safely assume that you were bidding far too low and the seller simply couldn’t allow the item to go that cheaply.
Keep things in perspective, Morocco is a poor country and although they may believe that Western tourists have a lot of money to spend, generally they are respectful of Westerners. They will try and get you to pay a slightly higher price, but they are simply making a living. Some products in Morocco are much cheaper than in the UK such as cotton, leather and silver. Remember that although haggling is traditional and meant to be fun, the sellers can only go so low before they have to let you go. You can’t expect to pay a few pounds for something that would cost you perhaps £15-£20 in the UK.
If you do realise you’ve reached a point where you cannot get the seller to go any lower and you really cannot afford to purchase the item you want, as a last resort, walk away, but remember to decline politely. If an item is relatively cheap anyway, perhaps a few pounds, it might be best to just pay the seller rather than argue.
Don’t feel too bad if you do come away having paid very little for something, because the seller wouldn’t have sold it to you at that price if he couldn’t, and remember to enjoy yourself. Lap up the sights and sounds of the Moroccan souks it is an experience you will never forget.