(Last Updated On: June 17, 2018)

Marrakech souks: A budget travelers insight is an extension to budget traveling Marrakech: What to expect. 

Marrakech souks: a budget travelers insight

Enter the magical (or chaotic) Marrakech Souks.

The Marrakech souks are as famous as Moroccan tea. While the Medina might be the heartbeat of Marrakech, the main square; (Jemaa El-fnaa) might be the vibrant ball of electricity, the souks are the pulsating epicenter of it all.

Stepping into the Marrakech souks; which are the largest and busiest souks in Morocco, is like stepping into an enchanted world. The smells, the hustle bustle, the noise, and vibrant visual delights around can put you in a mesmeric trance and be quite overwhelming the first time (or even the second time.)

Stepping into the Marrakech souks is like stepping into an enchanted world. The smells, the hustle bustle, the noise, and vibrant visual delights around can put you in a trance and be quite overwhelming. This post will help you with what to expect in them.

The Marrakech souks are like no other, a unique experience, however, in saying that this post is not about me over-glamorizing them. This post is to give you an insight into what to expect in them.

Where are the souks, how do you get into them?

Getting into the souks is the easy part! It’s the getting out that’s the hard part – at first.

The Marrakech souks are a labyrinth of interconnecting lanes and ally’s, which are filled with stalls and shops practically compressed into each other. At first glance, they seem to just mesh into one and it’s quite easy to lose yourself in them. However, once you have your bearings, navigating them becomes a little easier.

As I mentioned in my previous post Budget traveling Marrakech: Inside the Medina, everything is in touching distance of the main square. The main entrances to the souks are found from the corners and side of the square.

Stepping into the Marrakech souks is like stepping into an enchanted world. The smells, the hustle bustle, the noise, and vibrant visual delights around can put you in a trance and be quite overwhelming. This post will help you with what to expect in them.

However, you should know that although the main entrances are from the square, some of the souks are interconnecting, so you can enter one and leave in a completely different one. And, they all have little side entrances too.

Now, you might be panicking a little, thinking that you’re going to get lost in them, or that they seem too overwhelming – Well, yeah you’re right…at first, they will be. The first time I stepped into one, I didn’t know which way to turn, and with all the chaos that goes on in them, it just made it harder to even think.

However, don’t worry – No need to panic, here’s a simple way to help you navigate through them.

Navigating the souks:

  • *Follow the general flow of the crowd: Following the crowd is just like letting the current take you, eventually you’ll find land, In this case, you’ll find a way out.
  • *Leave breadcrumbs for yourself: Not literal ones, but pick out some noticeable signs, or something you will recognize and use them to backtrack.
  • *Go with somebody who knows their way around. My first few days I was with friends who had been in Marrakech a few days before, so they were my guides inside them.
  • *Familiarise yourself with certain stalls, use them as landmarks and after a few days, you’ll pass them knowing where you are. There will be some places that just stand out to you.
  • *Once you’ve been in Marrakech, in the Medina, and in the souks a few days, you’ll get used to the layout, so even if you walk into one entrance you’ll know the general direction of another from inside.
  • *Also after a few days, you’ll know which souks sell what, which are quieter, and which ones you’ll be harassed in more.
  • *After a few days, you’ll also find yourself constructing a mental map in your head. A couple of the souks have little courtyards to separate them before joining onto another. You can use them to help navigate around too.

Stepping into the Marrakech souks is like stepping into an enchanted world. The smells, the hustle bustle, the noise, and vibrant visual delights around can put you in a trance and be quite overwhelming. This post will help you with what to expect in them.

What’s sold in the souks?

Pretty much everything you can think of. One of the reasons why so many tourists flock to souks is because there is such an abundance of choice. Yes, a lot of the stalls just like in most heavily populated markets around the world do sell much of the same but there is also so much uniqueness on offer. It’s funny because if you’re in one shop and they’ve run out of something you want, they’ll just run over to another stall, grab it from them and come back to sell it to you themselves rather than pointing you to the other stall.

In the Marrakech souks you’re going to find a mixture of authentic Moroccan craftsmanship and handicrafts, you’ll feel Moroccan history as you venture through. But, at the same time, you’ll also see cheap knockoffs, items that have been mass-produced for tourists and cheap souvenirs. It really is a mixed bag but one thing is for sure your senses are going to explode.

Stepping into the Marrakech souks is like stepping into an enchanted world. The smells, the hustle bustle, the noise, and vibrant visual delights around can put you in a trance and be quite overwhelming. This post will help you with what to expect in them.

Most common things you’ll find in the Marrakech souks:

  • Textiles: Authentic, hand-crafted Moroccan items such as handmade carpets, rugs and all types of fabrics. However, you need to keep an eye out as some are just some cheap factory made items mass-produced for tourists, who can’t tell the difference between authentic or not.
  • Pottery and ceramics of all shapes and sizes: Vases, bowls, cutlery, cups, teapots, all with intricate Moroccan designs.
  • Colorful spices, Moroccan tea, and herbs.
  • Handcrafted ornaments and trinkets of all sizes.
  • All kinds of Moroccan lamps and oil lamps (Genie not included, trust me I rubbed a few but nothing.)
  • Historic weapons: Guns, knives, blades, swords, daggers, spears, shields.
  • Sunglasses and hats.
  • Furniture.
  • Handmade Moroccan slippers, made from leather and locally called ‘Babouches’.
  • Traditional medicine.
  • Amazing Moroccan artwork, made from traditional paints and dyes.
  • Fake and knock off clothing and shoes apparently from designer brands (wink, wink.)
  • Cheap souvenirs to take home with you.
  • All types of electronics from old to new.
  • Bags of all kinds, homemade and handcrafted from all kinds of materials.
  • A whole lot more: Whatever you’re interested in; it will be here.

Casually looking around/window shopping.

There are certain things that don’t seem to be allowed in Marrakech, and walking around peacefully seems to be one of them. So, if for a second, you think you’ll be able to leisurely walk around the souks without being bothered; you’re quite mistaken.

In the busier souks, every stall you walk past will entice you to look in their stall or shop. Some will be more aggressive than others, some will try to entice you with a tea, they might try telling you a fable, others will compliment you, some might just try to strike up a conversation. If you have a beard, no matter where you’re from you will be called ‘Ali Baba’ – Don’t get offended nor take it seriously, they’re just trying to get your attention. I was called ‘English brown Alli Baba’ all the time.

Stepping into the Marrakech souks is like stepping into an enchanted world. The smells, the hustle bustle, the noise, and vibrant visual delights around can put you in a trance and be quite overwhelming. This post will help you with what to expect in them.

However, in saying that I’m making it sound worse than it is, yes you will get hassled by some, some of them are very persuasive but there are other souks that are quieter. Some will let you walk by, even peer into their stalls without batting an eyelid but once you step into the stall and show some interest they will latch onto you like a rash. To us westerners, we prefer to be left alone and shop on our own accord but to these guys, it’s what they know.

No…Maybe?

If you aren’t interested in buying anything, don’t be afraid to say NO. Some stall owners can be quite persuasive but a firm ‘no’ will dispel your interest. However, if you feel just saying no is quite rude then just like with the merchants on the square the word ‘maybe’ works just as well but with more interaction.

Here’s how it usually goes – You say, “Maybe tomorrow” – They will reply with “Maybe?” – Which you come back with a nod, smiling and say “Maybe” – They know you’re brushing them off but not being rude by ignoring them or just saying no. Remember they are just trying to make a living.

Haggle, Haggle, Haggle.

If you are interested in buying something, you’re going to need to haggle if you don’t want to get ripped off.

Now, I know for a lot of people haggling is a daunting task and some of you may never have had to do it. For most of us that come from western countries, haggling is a foreign concept.  We’re used to walking into a shop and buying something at the stated price, sometimes we shop in different places to find the cheapest option, and sometimes there are discounts. However, we don’t do what seems to be arguing over something.

I only learned to haggle after I started to travel, and at first, it was a daunting experience, I didn’t know how to do it nor did I know the ‘rules’ to haggling. You see there is an art to haggling and I’m sure even when I started I still got ripped off. However, it’s a learning curve and over the years I’ve learned to play the game.

Stepping into the Marrakech souks is like stepping into an enchanted world. The smells, the hustle bustle, the noise, and vibrant visual delights around can put you in a trance and be quite overwhelming. This post will help you with what to expect in them.

And, that’s exactly what it is; a game! Some people think haggling needs to be serious, or some think they shouldn’t haggle because what’s a few pennies, they can’t be bothered with the hassle.

Haggling is not being rude, It’s part of the culture, haggling is expected and if you don’t want to haggle, well you’re just going to get ripped off, it’s as simple as that.

Playing the haggling game in the souks.

So, when in the souks, haggling is essential if you don’t want to get ripped off, and even more essential for us budget travelers.

I will be writing a comprehensive post on the art of haggling quite soon. However for now, below is a basic method that works for me and a lot of travelers I know.

  1. Don’t be too serious, ask them to name a price.
  2. Smile, shake your head and offer just less than half of what the price given was.
  3. They will laugh and refuse it, they will stick to the original price.
  4. You shrug, shake your head and put the item back saying it’s too much and start to walk away like you’re not interested.
  5. They will call you back with an “Ok, Ok, new price’ – which will still be substantially too much but less than the original price.
  6. This time you stick to your original offer, – you will go back and forth a few times.
  7.  Once they’ve gone down quite substantially, they will stick to their latest offer in which you offer a little higher than your original price.
  8. There will be a bit more back and forth and eventually you will agree on a price that suits you both.
  9. You will then agree on a price, they will try to be sneaky and up the price but you shake your head or laugh – they will laugh back and the price you agreed on will stick.

It can get a little more complex sometimes, there can be multiple items involved but sometimes it can be even easier and just simple. The important factor is: never take the first offer, and also do shop around before you commit.

Visiting the Marrakech souks can be hard for budget travelers.

What I mean by this is, we budget travelers obviously have a tight budget. We are quite strict about our spending habits and we only spend when we need to. So, when visiting the souks there is going to be an urge to spend, and like I said before there is always something in the Souks that you will want to buy.

When Budget traveling Marrakech, the heartbeat of the city; the Medina and the main square Jemma El-Fnaa will inevitably be on your list but what should you expect inside it?

So, if your eye does catch something that you just have to have, you’re going to need to be on your haggling game. No matter how cheap something seems it’s going to make a difference if you haggle.

Things to keep in mind when in the souks.

  • *They can get very overcrowded, although generally safe, keep your valuables close.
  • *Like everywhere else in the world, the more you look like and act like a wide-eyed tourist, the more you’re likely to be targeted. Try to blend in.
  • *Don’t be afraid to get lost in them for a few hours. Remember getting lost is half the fun.
  • *Taking photos is quite difficult unless you’re willing to pay the shopkeeper a tip a take them.
  • *Some will have signs saying ‘no pictures’ some will tell you straight up that you can’t take a picture.
  • *Shop/market owners are savvy, some are quite persuasive, some will try striking up a friendly conversation just to get you into their shop. Some will even offer you a tea as you’re looking around, it’s their ‘in’ but it’s ok to take the tea, especially if you’re thirsty.
  • *However in saying you can have some great fun and banter with the shop owners too.
  • *Be mindful of your budget, it’s quite easy to start overspending, especially if you get on a roll with haggling. You might think as you’re haggling you have enough budget left, that is until you get home and realise you spent way more than you thought.
  • *If you do buy things, think of the practicality of it – Are you going to carry on traveling? How will you carry what you’ve bought, will it fit in your backpack, do you have space? (It might sound stupid, but I meet so many travelers who over buy then wonder how they are going to carry things around.)
  • *Be mindful of asking for directions, some people will tell you the wrong direction on purpose.
  • *Don’t accept any offers from anybody offering to guide you if you don’t know them.
  • *Take a break, there are lots of cafe’s dotted around the souks.
  • *Most importantly don’t forget to have fun.

My overview of the Marrakech souks.

I can honestly say, even though I didn’t buy that much in the souks I had so much fun in them, I had lots of friendly banter with store owners in the Marrakech souks.

Stepping into the Marrakech souks is like stepping into an enchanted world. The smells, the hustle bustle, the noise, and vibrant visual delights around can put you in a trance and be quite overwhelming. This post will help you with what to expect in them.
I could easily pass for a local right?

Over the years, I’ve lived in Bali where the streets of Kuta are lined with markets. I’ve been to huge night markets in Thailand and Vietnam and experienced other open-air markets in central America but nothing compares to the energy, colors, smells, and atmosphere generated through the Marrakech souks.

Apart from getting a bit weary and tired of people trying to entice you – this is an experience not to be missed and one that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

***

If you missed my post on what to expect in the Marrakech Medina don’t forget to give it a read.

Did you find this post about what to expect in the Marrakech Souks helpful? Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you would like to know.

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Stepping into the Marrakech souks is like stepping into an enchanted world. The smells, the hustle bustle, the noise, and vibrant visual delights around can put you in a trance and be quite overwhelming. This post will help you with what to expect in them.

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  1. First time reader here. I found your post via Nathan – The Foodie Flashpacker

    ‘Lovely post and great tips. I haven’t yet been to Marrakech, but I’ve been to Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia where haggling is a way of life. It’s important to take the time, probably a day or half a day, then it all comes together, as it can be exhausting after a while.

    Once in Egypt, we accepted a cup of tea, and the conversation lasted 2 hours as the shop owner had family in both England & Germany (where I’m from)! At first, I was quite irritated, as I’m used to doing things quite quickly, but once I calmed down, it really was pleasant. They even brought out the whole family to greet us. And yes, we bought the leather handbag that I wanted!

    I imagine Morocco is the same.
    Victoria @TheBritishBerliner recently posted…How to get German citizenship if you’re British – How to be a German via Double Nationality!My Profile

    • Hi Victoria I’m glad you found me ? I hope you enjoyed the post.
      Yes you’re right Morocco does sound the same as Egypt, they hook you in with the tea haha and some of them.are genuinely friendly and can tell you stories for days haha.

      I’ve not been to Egypt yet, but I’ve heard it’s quote over touristy and the reality is not the same of how you d imagine it ..but then again there’s not a lot of places like that now…

      I hope you join the forever roaming the world’s community, and join the bumpy ride ahead ??

  2. The souks sound crazy fun. What an incredible experience. I know I would get lost for at least a day, wandering around with wide eyes. Some great tips on navigating.

  3. Looks like there will be a lot of fun here in Marrakech, Souks. I love how this market looks like and the photos makes me feel that I am there also. For sure everybody will enjoy shopping in here though you are in tight budget. I love the idea of how to haggle. Thanks for sharing and for the helpful tips!

  4. The colour and vibrancy of the Souks of Marrakech come out vividly in the post. Indeed the Souks seem straight out of a scene from Arabian Nights. The sheer range of goods on sale in the souks seems mind-boggling. I would not want to buy anything here except possibly the odd souvenir but would love to stroll along the souks absorbing the spirit and the vibrant atmosphere.

  5. I fear crowds and closed spaces. I might definitely get lost in Marrakech souks. However, your idea of navigating through them by following crowd sounds reasonable. I love to shop from local authentic shops and the handicrafts of Marrakech souks look beautiful. One can save a lot of money by shopping here. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Marrakech was such an incredible experience for me! I was inspired to visit it after watching an episode of The Amazing Race and seeing the Old Medina and the Souks on TV left me in awe. What a wild place!!! I think when I got too deep in the market I followed your first piece of advice: Follow the general flow of the crowd. It never failed me!!! Thanks for bringing me back again!!!

  7. I would love to spend time discovering the Marrakech souks! I love the idea of getting lost in the labyrinth and letting the flow of the crowd take you to discover new and exciting corners. A good idea to get familiarized with someone who knows their way around and to keep tabs on landmarks to find your way back. Great tips! Sounds like I’llhave to start practicing my haggling skills – I’m a horrible negotiator lol but sounds like quite the sport here!

  8. This is a great guide! I’m heading to Morocco this spring and I’m so excited to explore the souks. There are amazing tips. I love the one about following the current of people. I hope I’ll be able to keep my barings straight. I’m dying to bring home some textiles!

  9. Another very enjoyable and useful post Amit! This really takes me back to my time in the souk. I never heard the Ali Baba reference (I mean in general with tourists!). With me, it was senorita or signorina, which I got bored with after a while! Did you actually buy anything? For me, I just looked around. Love the last photo; you definitely could be a local!

  10. I think the souks of Morocco can indeed be a little overwhelming, but you never have to buy anything if you don’t want to. They also are so winding, that I found I didn’t really know where I was a lot of the time, but I didn’t get upset and just kept going until I saw something familiar. It does take some getting used to.

  11. LOVE this! I would so much enjoy getting lost in one of those souks :D:D:D Back when I was visiting Istanbul, it was the same experience, getting lost in the Grand Bazaar, not knowing where the alley would take me and keeping my eyes mostly up, because there were so many things hanging around for you to check out. ? I can hardly wait to get to Marrakech ? this just added to my excitement ?

  12. When I think of Marrakech souks I do admit in my mind they are all exotic and glam. Such great advice for navigating them, makes me feel more at ease that I won’t get lost!

    English brown Alli Baba, that is quite funny. Would definitely get your attention. And yes you could pass as a local!

  13. I think getting horribly lost in the Marrakesh souqs is one of those essential travel experiences. I love your tip on leaving “breadcrumbs” — I remember there was this one candy store that I used to orient myself the entire time I was there. Every time I walked by, I’d buy a little piece of candy — and after 2-3 days I knew exactly where it was and how to get out of the souqs from there. Great tips!

  14. Ha! you could definitely pass for a local! I wonder if you got hassled less than the rest of us because of that?! I was only there for 3 days but it was more than enough, the constant heckling was too much for me after that! ?

  15. Very interesting! I have been to markets in China before, but Marrakech souks seem even more beautiful! Looks like a must-try even if one doesn’t enjoy shopping very much, as I do. But I do love getting lost while travelling, especially in labirynthic places, and this seems a lot of fun. Thank you for the descriptions, the pictures and the suggestions – I didn’t know anything about these souks, hopefully I’ll visit there someday!

  16. Yes you could easily pass for a local, hopefully that worked to your advantage. ? I visited Marrakech years ago but I don’t remember the markets being so crowded. Maybe back then it was still ‘off the beaten path’, But still, all those lovely treasures for sale was pure magic. If I went back today I would go crazy buying things and I’m unfortunately not much of a haggler. For me it just loses its charm quickly. I usually ask for a price and if it’s ridiculous I leave. If the price dramatically drops to reasonable then they usually get a sale. But I guess the fun factor really depends on which country you are haggling in?

  17. What a great article. I definitely have Marrakech on my itinerary for the year, and I’ll definitely visit the souks there. They certainly remind me of the souks in Istanbul and Dubai, although they sound safer than Istanbul. The no photos rule is very familiar to me, although I do sometimes get away with them, especially after striking up a conversation with the store owner. I also enjoyed accepting the teas – some are really good. I’ll be sure to find some sunglasses there when I go.

  18. I always love how realistic and helpful your tips are, Amit. I especially like your advice of “following the crowd’ for not getting lost in the crowded souks. Leaving ‘breadcrumbs’ might not work for everyone, people like me get lost VERY easily and also very confused about crossing certain spots. I feel like I’ve been to a spot before which I most likely wouldn’t have been haha. Haggling is NOT my strong point but I have seen it in the souks here in Dubai too, they will sell you products for 3-4 times the price if you don’t haggle. And the more wide-eyed tourist you look, the more they’ll charge you. It’s a bit scary to get into these kind of winding, crowded lanes of colourful products but I am sure its one amazing experience. A little bit like the souks here in the UAE but on a MUCH LARGER scale, from what I understand.

    Medha Verma recently posted…7 things that made us go WOW on our trip to NorwayMy Profile

  19. Such an entertaining read English brown Alli Baba (hehehehe)! I love markets/souks and trade fairs – which are similar and I’ve definitely gotten lost in a few!. I have learnt the art of haggling (we call it bargaining) over the years and it definitely comes in handy when you’re on a budget. I would want to visit just for the experience and shopping as well!

  20. I would love to visit Marrakech Souks. I would probably get lost and need some help to navigate ?
    I would also love to get my hands on the ‘Babouches’.

  21. So funny, like Jennifer above, I read the title as Marrakech “sucks” – lol! I was like, what? No way!

    This is a great post and while I’ve never been to a souk, your description and tips remind me of shopping in the bazaars in India….spot on, actually! Marrakech is on my list and I can’t wait to shop around in the souks.

  22. The souks look like a lot of fun. I have had a similar experience shopping in the bazaars of Cairo, where everything was a maze and all the prices were fluid. The sheer quantity and variety of everything being sold was phenomenal, but the real joy was in the shopping. We have a game where we look for the most “authentic item” to purchase. This leads to a bonus round of finding it again after we walking by in the first place. We spent three days looking for a particular turtle sculpture that was only available in one shop in Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka.
    Jenn and Ed Coleman recently posted…How to Find The Best Ayurveda in Sri LankaMy Profile

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