The truth is Marrakech can be quite hectic, especially in the souks. So here is a guide to help you survive the chaos in the Souks of Marrakech:
1. Embrace the chaos
At first sight, the souks can be chaotic and daunting, but just stop and think. You are actually in a magical place, with so much energy, so embrace it. If it gets too much, there are many restaurants around where you can take a break and drink some Mint Green Tea. My favourite is on the terrace of Cafe de France, where you can look over the vibrant square, whilst watching the sunset.
2. Learn to say no
Once you enter the souk, the shopkeepers will try to pull you right, left and centre. They can be very persistent. Even whilst being in the shops browsing, they may just show you everything they have to tempt you to buy something, but just a simple, yet firm ‘no, thank you’ can do the trick, and just carry on walking.
3. Learn some tactics
Continuing on from number 2, sometimes the simple ‘no’ doesn’t work. In this case, you may get beggars following you around, which can very be unsettling. Even though it breaks my heart every time, I know if you give in to one beggar, it can bring a mass of beggars crowding you which can be even more unsettling and affect your time at the souks. What we did was walked right in one of the shop stools and hung out there for a while browsing, until the vendor told them to go away as it affects their sales. The beggars left and never pestered again. The best thing to do is to just ignore them. If you acknowledge they are there, they won’t leave you alone. I have experienced the most extreme level of persistency here than anywhere else I have been.
(If you do want to help the local Moroccans, there are many organisations that you can get in touch with. One being Cafe Henna where all of their profits go to helping those who can’t afford education.)
Haggling is expected in the Souks of Marrakech, so don’t be embarrassed to do so. Just remember to be polite about it and include some banter in there too. It’s a great way to converse with the locals. To get the best price, what I usually do is suss out a few stools first, and see how much each one are charging for the particular item I got my eye set on to give me an idea on how low they can charge. Usually when they give me a price, I divide it by 50% and throw that price at them to test how low they will go. Usually, they will decrease their original price lower and lower, and try to meet you somewhere half way. If they don’t budge, best thing to do is walk away. Most of the time they will call you back and accept your final offer. If don’t seem so pleased about the final price, you know you got a really good deal! But remember these vendors are trying to make a living, and us as tourists sometimes do have the upper hand. That 10 Dirham in difference may seem a lot more to them than it would to us. I only tend to do this if we make a deal with the vendor that we buy many items from them.
6. Take things lightly
Vendors around will try to converse with you with the hopes it will attract you to their stores. One way they do this in our experience, is to guess what country you are from. Try not to get offended though, they’re not being racist. Best thing to do is just laugh it off. I mostly got mistaken for being Pakistani. (For the record, I’m of Filipino descent.)
7. Get lost
The narrow paths of the souks can get quite daunting and it’s easy to lose your way, as all the paths can look alike. But it’s ok. Sometimes it’s good to get lost (but be vigilant), you never know where you may end up and what treasures you may find. As long as you are set with CityMaps2Go app (offline map app), you can always find your way back home.
This article is part of A Nomad’s Guide to Marrakech