Marrakech souks: Budget travelers insight

Marrakech souks: Budget travelers insight

Marrakech souks: a budget travelers insight(Last Updated On: January 9, 2020)

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

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.

If you would like further posts like this or other in-depth solo/ budget travel advice and weekly blog posts? Come and join Forever Roaming the World’s ever-growing community, we would love to have you.

In joining Forever Roaming the World – you will not only gain access to posts like this but also subscriber exclusives, access to budget travel resources and a FREE budget travel planning aid. All you have to do is drop your email into the form below.

Want to carry on your journey with Forever Roaming the world, simply step through the rabbit hole to the Start here page below.

Don’t forget to pin 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.
Logo for Forever Roaming the World

  • 74
  •  
  • 8
  •  
  • 5
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 74
  •  
  • 8
  •  
  • 5
  •  
  •  

 

31 Responses

  1. I loved your article, I am starting my travel blog

  2. 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 ??

  3. Angelina says:

    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.

  4. Marrakech seems like an ultimate travel destination and I really hope to cross it off my bucket list. I would love to try the Marrakech souks when there. I’m keeping your post as a guide! 😉

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. FS Page says:

    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.

  8. 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!!!

  9. Jessica says:

    This reminds me of when I was in Casablanca shopping the souks, it can be incredibly overwhelming! Although it was fascinating to watch, I don’t miss the overly aggressive salespeople. Great post, it took me back to my trip to Morocco almost 8 years ago!

    Jessica recently posted…Exploring Rainbow Mountain in PeruMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.