Marrakesh is a beautiful city filled with history and culture. One of the things its most known for are its markets, often referred to as souks. While preparing for my trip back in August, I knew I had to make the most of my time in the souks sourcing pieces for my global fashion store Sororum. I did some research but I also learned a lot along the way. Here are my 5 best tips for how to get the most out of your Marrakesh market experience should you ever travel there.
Dress the Part
Getting a good deal isn’t just about being a good negotiator. Getting a good deal starts with how you look. If you go into the Marrakesh markets wearing fine jewelry and designer clothing, you’re going to draw attention to yourself, and not in a good way. Dress down and keep it casual. What merchant will want to give you a good deal when you look like you can afford to overpay?
Set Your Maximum Price
Coming from Canada I had to convert my Canadian Dollars to US Dollars and then to Moroccan Dirham. Needless to say my head was spinning from all the constant conversions but if you’re going to make it in Marrakesh you need to learn to convert quickly and find out how much things are worth.
At the time I was traveling 1 USD = 9.5 MAD approximately so I rounded that to mean 1 = 10 so I could quickly do the math in my head when I was out. For example, if a shopkeeper told me a bracelet was 500 MAD I’d translate that to 5 USD and it would help me asses the item’s worth in a way I could understand and figure out what to offer back.
The other part of figuring out your maximum price requires some outside help. I stayed at a riad with a very helpful host who gave me some advice for how much to spend on certain items. I highly recommend reaching out for help in this same way. Being a tourist, you likely won’t be able to talk a merchant down to an amount locals pay, but at least you’ll know what range you’re aiming for which will help you decide what is the maximum you’ll pay before you reach your walk away point.
You find an item you like. Look it over curiously but don’t show too much excitement. Keep it cool and casually ask how much. The first number the shopkeeper tells you is going to be ridiculous. Initially you might be dissuaded and want to walk away, but know that price is extremely high because they want you to haggle with them.
Unlike Western culture where you walk in, pay, and leave without barely exchanging words, in Marrakesh every aspect of shopping is social. They gave you a high price so respond with an equally low price. They’ll never agree to it but that’s not the point. The point is to banter back and forth until you can hopefully reach an agreement at or below your maximum price.
Commit to the Process
Like I said before, this is not an in and out exchange. You need to be patient and commit to the process of haggling. Sometimes it will take 15 minutes, sometimes it will take well over an hour if you’re buying multiple pieces. The shopkeeper might bring a chair for you to sit on because you’ve been standing up talking with them for so long. Someone else may bring mint tea and snacks as hospitality or because you’ve grown parched negotiating.
I personally have experienced all of this and more. The important thing is to go with the flow if you really want what you’re haggling for and you feel good about getting the price you want. Being patient and accepting hospitality are two strong ways to getting the deal you want.
Have a Good Sense of Humor
In the end you might get that item you’re haggling for or you might not be able to come to an agreement, but either way it’s important to stay in good spirits. It’s easy to get frustrated or flustered but at the end of the day you have to remember it’s not that serious. Haggling is supposed to be fun so have fun, crack jokes, and laugh. I’ve had experiences where we never got on the same page in terms of price but we enjoyed each other’s company as people so even though we parted ways without a sale, the shopkeeper said: “Come back anytime, we’re still friends!”
So those are my tips for getting the most out of the Marrakesh souks! Use them and I guarantee you’ll have a great time and leave with some beautiful pieces. I definitely did! I found butter-soft suede purses, brightly-colored kaftans, and gorgeous jewelry which you can purchase from my store at ShopSororum.com.
Sororum is all about bridging the gap between stylish, globally-conscious women from North America and handmade, artisanal goods from around the world. To learn more, visit the web site links above, check out this previous post I wrote sharing how I created the company, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.