Buy

Along with the major souk adjacent to the Djemaa el Fna, there are a plethora of smaller souks throughout the city where any number of products can be bargained for. Keep an eye out for a wide array of hand-crafted candle-holding lanterns, as well as spectacular displays of local spices.

Marrakech is home to a large tanning industry, and leather goods of high quality can be bought here cheaply. Check out camel leather items especially – jackets, round poufs, and handbags.

Also of interest would be items made of the local cactus silk, which is really rayon a natural fiber made of plant cellelose and produced in Morocco. Rayon holds the chemical dyes well which accounts for the vibrant range of true colors (natural dyes cannot produce a “true”color). On offer are scarves, handbags, tablecloths, bedspreads and throws in stunning colors. Some merchants try to charge a premium price for this “cactus silk”.

Be sure to wander round the potters’ souk, and look for brightly coloured platters and bowls, as well as tagines in all sizes

Lovely cashmire shawls can also be had for less than a fiver with a little bargaining.


Bargaining

Remember that bargaining in the souks is expected. It is not really possible to give an accurate indication of how much to start the bargaining at in relation to the initial asking price. Prices are set on a daily, even, hourly basis, depending on how much has been sold on a given day (or period of hours), while also reflecting the vendors personal estimation of the potential client. The souks are often a good reflection of the basic economic principles of supply and demand, particularly with regard to the demand side. If a lot of products have been sold by a particular merchant he/she will raise the price, and may refuse to sell any more products for the rest of that day (or for days) unless the price is much higher than usual. If there are many tourists around prices go higher, and bargaining even small amounts off the asking price becomes quite difficult. In addition, the seller will generally inspect the client, whose dress and possessions (particularly if the potential client sports an expensive Swiss watch, camera, tourist trinkets of obvious poor quality etc) are usually the main indication of how high the price may be set above the usual. However, the potential client’s attitude is also taken into consideration.

Taking all this and other factors into account (such as the time of day, day of the week, season etc), initial prices may be up to 50 times or more in excess of what would normally be paid, either by a local, or a patient and well-instructed tourist, especially for more expensive items, such as carpets. Carpets, however, are a very specialized item, and it is necessary to have at least a cursory understanding of production techniques and qualities, and if possible an ability to distinguish between hand-made and machine-made carpets, hand-dyes and the like, if one is not to be utterly duped. Western visitors would be surprised, for instance, how beautiful a carpet can be appropriated by a skillful negotiator inside of 50 euros.

Bargaining is an enjoyable experience for most vendors, and they prefer clients that don’t appear hurried and are willing to take the time to negotiate. It is most often actually necessary to give reasons for why you believe the price should be lower. The reasons you might give are limited only by your imagination and often lead to some very entertaining discussions. Common reasons may include: the price of the item elsewhere, the item not being exactly what you are after, the fact that you have purchased other items from the stall/store, that you have built a rapport with the vendor after discussing football and so forth. On the other hand, if there is little movement in the price after some time, the best advice is to begin leaving, this often has the result of kick-starting the bidding anew, and if not, it is likely that the merchant is actually unwilling to go further below a given price, however absurd. In fact, the best general advice is simply to go to several merchants selling similar products and weigh their collective prices and attitudes. Revisiting a merchant at a later time may or may not allow you to bargain a given product more effectively. In one respect, to return puts the ball back in the vendor’s court, as it is obvious that he/she has the product you want at the closest price, but in another respect, if some time has passed between visits, and business has been slow in the interim, and your return to the store is interpreted as a gesture of fidelity, the price may miraculously plummet. Many of the vendors can be very charming themselves, and a little charm may also go a long way. Nevertheless, this should not entail conceding to a vendor at an unacceptable price. That, of course, would defeat the point. Rather, charm is just another tactic that may or may not be effective in reducing the price of a given item.

It is also important to show a genuine interest for the workmanship of the product for sale, however disinterested you may actually be in what you are buying. This does not, however, mean that you should appear over-enthusiastic, as this will encourage the vendor to hold his/her price. Rather, it is important to project a critical appreciation for each article/object. Any defects are either unacceptable, or a further opportunity to bargain the price down.

Caution should be taken never to begin bidding for unwanted items, or to give the vendor a price you are unwilling or unable (with cash on hand) to pay. Try to avoid paying by credit card at all costs, and in the event, never let the credit card out of your sight, and demand as many receipts as you can possibly get your hands on. There is typically a credit card carbon copy and an official shop receipt. Never tell a vendor where you are staying (unless it is a backpackers), and ‘never tell a vendor how much you have paid for any other items that you may have. Just say that you got a good price, and you want a good price from him/her too. And, above all, never be afraid to say ‘No’.

It must also be said that, as for us buyers, not all sellers are actually very good at what they do. A vendor that is completely disinterested or even aggressive is unlikely to give a good price. Move on.

All in all, a good negotiation can be a fun experience. Also remember that Marrakech is the only place visited by such a large quantity of tourists, so prices can be higher than elsewhere, although not necessarily so. If at all possible, look first at the prices and qualities of items in other cities by way of comparison.

Otherwise, if you buy sweet cakes, avoid buying them in the Magasins were the scale is hidden. In one of the main streets of the Medina, there are two that often take advantages from that.

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