“Getting lost” in the souqs in Marrakech, Morocco

After spending all night on the train, our day began by debating whether we should walk or take a taxi to the grand plaza.  Morocco is a land of  bargaining and negotiating prices from taxi’s to souvenirs to even hotels and tours. We were approached by a taxi driver with a high price and our savvy bargaining skills, all of us throwing out numbers without talking first of what we should pay, we were turned down. When another taxi man approached, we didn’t even attempt because his price sounded so good at 40 dirhams (4E) with our luggage. Silly us. (should have been 20D).

The plaza at 9am- just waking up

We arrived to the plaza as it was just waking up.  We passed by a horse carriage taxi rank and watched dried fruit sellers and vendors arranging their wares, motorcycles zipping by, and the plethora of fresh squeezed orange juice stalls. 4dms a glass (40 euro cents). We bargained again because well, that’s what you do in Morocco, right?- 4 glasses for 10 dms (instead of 16dm). There is an amazing amount of competition of orange juice sellers all with the exact same looking stall, same set up that I wonder if they  have a bigger boss or all just thought an orange juice cart was a fabulous idea- all with the exact same choices and same prices…

Fresh squeezed juice-Come and get it!

Nope, he didn't dilute are orange juice with water. Fresh squeezed. electric juicer!

Boo-ya! Great way to start the day! me, Lisa, Juan (Malaga) and Matt (auxiliar de Iowa)

We went to our hostel, Trip and friends, on a small cobblestone street but you wouldn’t know it was a hostel if you didn’t have the address.  We were greeted by friendly smiles and delicious sugary mint tea and sat down on the colorful cushions and pillows. Our new friends, Matt and Juan, had joined us since they didn’t have a hostel booked.  We all laughed and smirked at each other when they told us, “Don’t worry, Take it easy” when they asked if they’re was availability. We left our bags without anyone checking our names or confirming our reservation. They never would. Ha. Juan and Matt decided to go to a different place when we returned 6 hours later and were told to wait and wait and wait and “Take it easy.” They didn’t feel so comfortable with the idea of “yes, you’ll have a place to sleep but we don’t know where yet.” (And said in fewer words than this.)

Mint Tea!

Common area of hostel and where breakfast is served

Slightly sleepy and still in the clothes from the day before, we headed out to explore Marrakech. Our guidebook recommended “getting lost in a souq (market) and we did just that. The souqs are a maze of streets full of shops selling everything you can dream up from leather goods, ceramics, silver jewelry, rugs, blankets, scarves, laterns, glass tea cups and teapots.

We stopped into a herbalist shop and next thing we knew, we’re smelling all different types of herbs.

Sniffing black cumin- helps you're respiratory system ( I think)

And then continued on…

I admired scarves (yes, I have too many and NO, I can never have enough!) but was annoyed when starting prices were higher than prices in Spain (for similar style if not the same scarves!). I was annoyed that in Morocco when you ask a price, you begin the bargaining process- because you show interest. I’m the type of traveler and shopper who likes to compare prices before I buy.. not so fast, Lauren! A few times when the price was shamefully high and I told the vendor so, “Sabes es mas barato en España.” He didn’t really appreciate my knowledge and angrily said, “Then buy it in Spain.” Well, F#$&, I will.

I don't believe these prices but the scarves are beauitful...

I learned quickly that Marrakech may not be the best place to buy because prices are so high because it’s tourist paradise. Vendors are astute. They’re smart. They’ve learned that tourists like to spend money and why not earn as much as possible? After all, it’s not always about supply and demand because heaven knowns, I mean, Allah knows, Morocco is busting at the seems with beautiful leather bags, vivid ceramic plates and bowls, silver jewelry, rugs, you name it and they continue to make them as if they’ll be sold out tomorrow. It’s a seller’s market. Tourist want it? How much you willing to pay? People pay and prices are high.  The cost to make things in Morocco is less but… ah never mind. It’s just the way it is.

But I did enjoy just browsing all the beauty.

Lanterns in every shape

Dangling beauty

Walking through the maze of the never ending market

If only they fit my feet

Later when we found a Women’s cooperative, which was unfortunately small, I appreciated items were priced and the prices were fair. I found myself at ease and happy to be buying from women. I realized then the market place,  is a man’s land, aggression and machismo for sale with ‘whatever you’re buying.’ I bought a few small ceramic bowls and didn’t even bargain. I probably could have but it was one of the few times I felt like I was getting a fair price and I’d prefer to buy from a woman any day, at least in Morocco.

Beautiful! I would love to have a set of plates and bowls...

From the outside, Morocco is a man’s land. Men are at cafés, men are all over the streets, men are running the shops, men are serving in restaurants, men are everywhere.  Everywhere. Women are in the street but I’d say for every 10 men, there is one Moroccan woman. Quite a ratio. Yet I know, it’s cultural and men and women do a lot of things separately. Lisa and I knew having two guy friends traveling with us kept men at bay and we’d experience a lot more attention the night we went to eat at the plaza without them.

Our 2nd night when I wanted to walk down a busy lit street off the plaza, Matt said (who hasn’t traveled much before), “Don’t you feel intimidated and uncomfortable being out at night with all these men?” I thought about it and realized, “Yes, it’s different but you guys are here” but even without them,  I know I would not have been intimidated. Traveling  in Africa solo has made me confident among African men and feisty, really feisty or does sassy sound better? I’ll say half of the feistiness comes from growing up with a machismo father. I learned to speak up for myself and not be intimidated. Though my dad was good at intimidating me.  I have a “don’t mess with me attitude” and though the men may talk, they certainly felt harmless. But don’t worry, we didn’t roam at night by ourselves for more than our 5  minute walk from our hotel. (oh yeah, our 2nd night we changed to a hotel from our hostel, in case you’re wondering, no typo here.)

Where are the food photos??? Stay tuned for “Eating my heart out in: Morocco!

Have you been to Morocco? What did you love most about Morocco? What didn’t you like?

Please leave a comment below (not on FB). Thanks.


17 thoughts on ““Getting lost” in the souqs in Marrakech, Morocco

  1. Pingback: Browsing the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey | Roamingtheworld

  2. Pingback: 2012 Travels in Review: A slideshow of Photos « Roamingtheworld

  3. hi my dear the pic is very nice and so masing im souad u remember me we meet us in the hammam looool im mrrocan

  4. Pingback: Bathing in a Hamman- a local Moroccan experience « Roamingtheworld

  5. I’d love to visit Morocco, even more so after hearing about your adventures there and seeing your wonderful photos. I love the one of the shoes. I also love that you bought your few items from the women there.

  6. I’m following your Moroccan adventure with interest. My Mum and I have booked a week’s trip in October. We’re driving over and using the car to get us to Fez, Marrakesh, Rabat and then back up to Tangier. I’m glad you said that Marrakesh is over priced since I plan on doing some shopping and may well hang on to my money for Fez and Rabat instead. Good luck with the rest of the adventure! x

    • Glad my posts can be of help. You’ll have a great time! I really wanted to go to Fez but with only 10 days there wasn’t enough time to see everything! Morocco is a big country with lots to see. yeah, definitely wait for Rabat and Fez… you’ll still want to bargain lots but prices will likely start lower than they do in Marrakech!

  7. I love that you found a women’s cooperative, I would have probably gone all out in their shop. Shopping, while having my money go towards a movement I believe in? Terrific. You’re right though, about things being crazily overpriced. Like you said the other day, you can probably get a lot of the same things in Granada for cheaper!
    Haha, David totally bought Moroccan slippers when we were in Chefchaouen, and wore them around town. He likes to pass as Moroccan when he can.

    • That’s awesome David bought Moroccan slippers- it’s always best when you can “pass” for the culture your in!
      It was definitely nice to be able to purchase from women! I didn’t know much about the cooperative but I assume (not the best to do) it’s a good organization helping woman. Nevertheless, it was nice to buy from woman and be away from all the testosterone of the marketplace. Ha.

  8. Pingback: Eating my heart out in: Morocco « Roamingtheworld

  9. I thought Fez’s souq was much more interesting and it seemed like you stepped into a different time. I was traveling alone and the hotel I stayed at arranged a guide for me… $20 which was kinda of steep but really the guide was fantastic and a woman! She took me to all these places I wouldn’t have found on my own… apparently you can get lost for days in the Fez souq! It was amazing and I learned so much… one of my faveorite days!

  10. Great post Lauren!! I could taste the orange juice. And the ceramics from the Women’s Co-op were stunning!! Mandalas!!! I really got a feel for the place and have more than a twinge of envy. Matt and Juan, very cute. Who are they and where are they from? Great photos! ❤ Mary/z

    • Thanks for reading Mary and for the beautiful compliment.
      Mandalas everywhere- All you need is a camera. Juan is from Malaga (very near) and Matt is from Iowa and teaching like Lisa and I.

  11. Nice dangling lamps pic! This reminds me of when I was in Morocco a few years ago 🙂
    “I was annoyed that in Morocco when you ask a price, you begin the bargaining process- because you show interest.” – same! The souq was fascinating but bargaining all the time got tired fast.

    • Hi Liya,
      Thanks for the compliment and commenting on my blog!
      Yes, bargaining does get tiring and really old. ha.

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