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Things to know for your first time shopping in Marrakech Souks

The souks in Marrakech are unlike anywhere I've ever been to in my life. They were an absolutely incredible experience for me and something I can now tick off of my bucket list. Twisty roads and little alleys full of stalls with canopies hanging over the top; it was quite a culture shock but what an experience! I wrote about how magical it was (here) but there are also a few things that I think it is important to be aware of, just because it's magical doesn't mean it doesn't have its flaws. Here are some of my tips for your first visit! 
Hire an official guide
As soon as you go in, you'll see why; it's very overwhelming and a bit of a culture shock so I was so glad we had Sami with us otherwise we would have never found out way out of there! Apart from not getting lost, whilst he was guiding us though labyrinth of little alleys, he stopped off to show us a traditional clay oven hidden behind one of the souks and was able to answer all of our questions along the way. We also found that with him with us, we got hassled far less than when we went back to the square on our own a few days later.
Wear the right clothes
..Saying that I did get groped whilst we were all trailing behind him. I knew dressing appropriately in Morocco was more important than any where I have been to in the past, especially in the souks so I was prepared but I still couldn't believe how bold the men were. I had a culotte jumpsuit on, one that I wear for work sometimes but it was hot, obviously, so I took my jacket off and had my shoulders on show. On two separate occasions guys grabbed my butt as they walked past. The first time it was more of a brushed hand so I wasn't sure but after a full cheek grab the second time, I decided I'd better just put my jacket on. What a difference that made, the rest of our visit was absolutely fine.
You'll Need Cash
As with all markets, its helpful to have cash on you. We got ours outside of the market as there are no cash points once you enter the madness.
It Has A Particular Smell
Before I visited, I read that some of the leather goods can smell so you should sniff them before you purchase, what I didn't expect was to turn a corner and be able to tell that there was a leather stall before I could see it. The hide is soaked in animal excrement to help the dyes stick and even though it is all washed off, the end product is still seriously potent; all part of the experience though!
Shopkeepers Can Be Persistent
The souks in Marrakech aren't your relaxed day at the market, be prepared to be pestered at every stall you walk past. Either avoid eye contact and totally ignore them or say no thank you firmly and they should leave you alone. Once you show an interest in something it's a lot harder to get rid of them, I had one guy follow me quite a long way away from his stall trying to sell me scarf that I was looking at. If you do want to purchase something then haggle! They expect it and nothing has a set price so it is very easy to get what you want for less than half of the original asking price. 

Whilst that is the case for alot, some were totally chilled out; I spotted one guy alseep on the floor in this shop. It was all very strange. 
Take Hand Sanitizer
I've never really been a germophobe but after an afternoon in the market, I wanted to wash my hands. This is especially important if you plan to visit the food stalls in Jemaa El Fna where there will be nowhere to wash your hands before you eat. 
Stay Alert
Kids on the street get suspiciously close and when you are not watching out for them; bikes carts and who knows what else are whizzing past. It also seemed that bikes don't have horns - all of the kids just made weird noses as they passed us. 

With so much to take in and like all markets, it's important to take a bag that fastens properly and try hold on to your stuff. I was pleased to have my Longchamp under my arm where I could see the zip and kept my camera around my neck with my hand on it at all times. 
Take It Slow
And one last thing to know before visiting the souks; they're absolutely amazing but very overwhelming. Remember to go slowly so you can take in all the sights and smells and get a proper experience! 

*Big thanks to Visit Morocco for inviting me along on this trip

3 comments

  1. These tips are amazing thank you Georgina!! And I can't believe you got groped but well noted - I'll make sure to fully cover up once I do make it over there! xx

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  2. This is extremely helpful info!! Very good work. Everything is very interesting to learn and easy to understood. Thank you for giving information.
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