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The Art of Haggling in Marrakesh

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By the time we left Marrakesh our bags were twice as heavy as they were when we arrived.

It’s easy to shop there. Matter of fact, it’s nearly impossible not to buy something in the souks, since you can’t even take pictures without parting with a few dirhams. The Rough Guide told us to start at the Ensemble Artisanal, just across from the large mosque near the square. This is a government-run establishment where the prices are more or less fixed and apparently slightly higher than the best deals in the souks. Some of the shops were closed on Friday when we went, but we were able to see how much the more common items (tajines, wallets, jewelry, paintings, etc.) should cost. Armed with some idea of where to begin our haggling, we set out into the maze of souks that Marrakesh has to offer.

Fellow travelers in Fes had told us that the sellers in Marrakesh were much more aggressive and pushy, although we didn’t find this to be the case. Yes, there were many more of them but there are also tons of tourists, so while they will try to get you into their shops, they won’t follow you down the road for twenty minutes like they do in Fes. We also found that in general, the shopkeepers in Marrakesh were more pleasant and courteous.

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The souks are slower on Fridays since it’s the Muslim Sabbath. Many will open up later, but I think we may have done better since there was less foot traffic on our main shopping day. We ended up taking a few things home, including:

1 tajine – Be aware that the beautifully colored and decorated tajines are not meant for cooking. Some sellers won’t tell you this, and will try to sell you a more ornate (and expensive) tajine that will be ruined if you put it in the oven. We ended up with a basic brown tajine that we can actually use. It is glazed with simple decorations around the top. The bidding began around 300 and Eric was able to get it down to 80 dirhams.

1 leather purse – Leather shops are everywhere, and it’s hard to resist picking up something that’s handmade and quickly customized. I found a purse for my mom, and the haggling for this item started at 500 dirhams. I easily got him down to 150, and he even shortened the strap and added holes, which only took a minute. The purse is made of camel leather, and I only feel a little bad about it.

Spices – This was our big purchase, and unfortunately it was our first or we would have bargained more. The price started at 40 dirhams for 100 grams, ended up paying 25 (1000 dirhams for 5 kilos). He did throw in a couple of free perfumes to make us feel like we were getting a great deal. [Note: Once we got the spices through customs and back to Denver, we found BUGS!! in them. After all that they went in the trash, but at least we didn’t grind them up and feed them to everyone we know at the wedding. You’re welcome.]

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Marrakesh is a great place to find handmade crafts and delicious foods. And the deals, if you have the patience to bargain, can be amazing!

The Ensemble Artisanal Ave Mohammed V across from Cyber Park Tel: 525 443503 Hours: Mon-Sat 9.30am-12.30pm & 3-7pm

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