Shopping in Morocco
In order to take full advantage of your time in Morocco, you’ll have to prepare yourself for what has truly become the art of shopping. When shopping in the country’s busiest market streets of Fez or Marrakesh, in your arsenal you should have the following: an idea of what you are looking for, a set price range, and a sure method of payment.
Each region of Morocco has its weekly market, but only in the cities are the markets open each day. In the medinas, each area is dedicated to a certain wares. One section will sell pottery, for example, which includes handmade tagine or couscous dishes, soap holders, and vases for décor. Another area will sell leather goods, from pouffes, or ground cushions, to handbags used by travelers or businessmen. And yet another section might sell metal ware, used for lamps, serving trays, and teapots.
In order to have an idea of what you are looking for, it’s good to do some preliminary research to find more information about products that interest you. For example, if you are looking for the country’s best pottery, you might decide which style of colors suite your taste. Safi in Morocco is known for their green and black vases, while Sale is known for its Earth tones. If you are in the market for rare wood products, Essaouira is famous for its woodcrafters who design some of the most dazzling inlaid boxes. Additionally, for those looking for embroidery, clothing, or even tablecloths, Fez and Meknes offer some of the most appealing designs.
Next, have an idea of how much you want to spend. Salesmen across the country will start their first price quite high. This common practice affects both travelers and locals alike, although locals tend to have a better idea of an item’s true worth. One way that a traveler can prepare himself is to visit a cooperative that sells items with fixed prices. These are known as “ensemble artisinals” and while their prices can also be elevated, you’ll at least have an idea of the value or cost of an item in the medinas or souks. Recently in Morocco, there has been a movement towards marking fixed prices. While this makes life somewhat easier, don’t think that you cannot bargain. In cooperatives, you would not bargain, but in the medinas, all is fair game.
Finally, have a sure method of payment. While some upper scale hotels and carpet shops have credit card machines, others only accept cash. In fact, most places in Morocco do not accept credit cards. No place in Morocco accepts traveler’s checks. And, banks will not cash them. An easy way to take out money in Morocco is via one of the plethora of ATM machines that line the streets, but let your bank know you are traveling. Travelers can also bring local currency in dollars or euros and exchange it at the airport and in banks during the regular workweek. The exchange rate differs from between establishments.
Overall, shopping in Morocco can be an overwhelming experience because there are so many beautiful items available. The colors, smells, and salesmen can have a hypnotizing affect on the unprepared. So, arm yourself by having an idea of what you want, what your budget might be, and bring along cash to pay for items. All of this advice comes from those who have been living in Morocco and know how you too can enjoy your stay, while getting great bargains at the same time.