As I sit on one of our leather poufs embellished with a Sahara seven point star and wait on the husband to make a pot of herbal Berber tea, I am once again back in that sandy African country. Finally finishing the posts I planned to write about Morocco, I am left with the last one – souvenirs and shopping.
A couple of our friends went to Morocco a few years ago. The woman booked the trip as a present for her partner for his birthday but in fact, as she admitted herself, she wanted to go shopping and decided this way it was a win-win situation. This got me thinking – why are people so fascinated with shopping in Morocco. Is it the prices? Is it the quality? Or is it just the possibility of being able to say I bought this in Morocco and feel smug about it?
After spending a week in this rowdy country, both the husband and I agree that it is a bit of it all.
The prices, when first offered, are English prices, so quite high; for instance a small leather backpack in a shop in Marrakech was priced at 600 MAD! (cca 12 MAD is £1 or €1.10) I am aware it was made of leather and had parts of it woven as if made from a rug, but that is a lot of money for a small backpack! Having a ball park of how much you are willing to pay for something and a bit of negotiation skills can help you lower the price significantly.
Most of the shops in the souks have the same merchandise, but the prices will not be the same – they depend on the seller, the time of day you arrived, the day the seller had (good, bad) and the amount of people asking for the item. It doesn’t help that the shops will rarely have any prices written down.
One thing we found out later on during our trip is that Fes is known as the craft capital of Morocco – many sellers throughout the country order their merchandise directly from Fes. This means that most of the things, especially leather goods, can be found cheaper there! Luckily, we left the backpack and pouffe buying until our last stop as we did not want to carry too many things around.
You can buy anything in the streets of Fes and for a really good price! Now when I say good price I mean – a small leather backpack for 150 MAD, a medium sized pouffe for 100 MAD and a gorgeous sunset colour king size bed throw for 200 MAD. We have not seen cheaper prices anywhere else in the country. We got most of our stuff at Le Souk Artisanale which we stumbled upon while looking for the Royal Palace. I am mentioning it here as the owner and his sister are an absolute delight and there are so many good quality things for an excellent price!
However, this does not mean that you have to travel to Fes to grab a bargain or buy some good quality souvenirs. Venture into a souk in any other town and you will find many eye catching items that will bring a breath of Morocco into your home.
Things you should get (in our opinion):
- Pouffes – we think these definitely deserve to be at the top of your list. We use ours all the time. We don’t have a dining table and we eat at the coffee table (Big Bang Theory style). We use the poufs as they are so much better for our backs than sitting leaning over the table. Another big plus – when you buy them, the poufs are empty so you can easily pack them into your bag even if you are travelling light. Once you get home, they double up as storage. Moroccans use them to store out of season clothes (summer clothes in winter and vice versa).
- Bed/sofa throws – it is uncanny how much a simple throw can change the look of your bedroom of living room! We took a throw in sunset colours and I absolutely love it!
- Leather bags – whether you get a backpack like we did or a travelling bag or a hand bag, leather products in Morocco are really worth the money. Don’t expect to get them for nothing, you will have to spend a sum, but you will definitely not pay as much as you would in the UK.
- Tea leaves and tea sets – if you are a big lover of tea, you will love Moroccan tea. And what better way to enjoy it back at home than from a nice set you got on your holiday. We got a bag of Berber tea, an herbal tea lovely to drink without any sugar or milk (not a black tea!). We had to skip on the tea set as we would not have had enough space in the bag, but there were some beautiful ones on offer.
- Carpet – if you have space for it in your bag, I say definitely go for it! With so many patterns and colours you will find a carpet you’ll fall in love with on first sight, I know I did…
- Babouches – or Moroccan slippers. Most of them are made from real leather and super comfortable. There are ones with detailed engravings (like the ones you can see on my feet on photos in this post) or just plain ones in vivid colours. Give them a go and see if you find a pair you like.
- Lamp shades – again, for someone having a bit more space in their bags. There are excellent lamp shades made out of brass or colourful glass which would make any room remind you of this sandy African country.
Another thing we saw roaming the streets of Morocco that might peak your interest is Damascus steel. It is recognisable by the watery or wavy light and dark pattern of the metal and famous for never losing its edge. Having a small ingot of Damascus steel is a welder’s dream (the husband’s eyes sparkled when he saw it). We saw Damascus steel items (including jewellery) in Meknes. But don’t think you can get it for a bargain, the Moroccans know its worth.
From tajines big and small, to fes hats, incense burners, pure eucalyptus, mountains of spices, Argan oil, random colourful pots and plates, pashminas, and straw bags… There are so many things that can be bought as souvenirs and little presents for your friends.
When shopping in Morocco, don’t rush. Take your time and, above all else, arm yourself with patience. You will have to negotiate, you will have to say no more than once and sometimes you will have to just walk away from a deal.
Do you have any shopping experiences from Morocco (or anywhere else in the world) that you would like to share?