Shopping in Marrakesh
Marrakesh is a shopper's bonanza, full of the very rugs, handicrafts, and clothing you see in the pages of magazines back home. Most bazaars are in the souk, just north of Djemaâ el-Fna and spread through a seemingly never-ending maze of alleys. Together, they sell almost everything imaginable and are highly competitive. Bargaining here is hard, and you can get up to 80% discounts. So on your first exploration, it's often a better idea to simply wander and take in the atmosphere than to buy. You can check guideline prices in some of the more well-to-do parts of town, which display fixed price tags for every object.
There are a number of crafts and souvenir shops on Avenue Mohammed V in Guéliz, as well as some very good Moroccan antiques stores and designer shops that offer a distinctly modern take on Moroccan clothing, footwear, and interior decoration. These allow buyers to browse at their leisure, free of the souk's intense pressures. Many have fixed prices, with only 10% discounts after haggling. Most of these stores are happy to ship your purchases overseas. Bazaars generally open between 8 and 9 am and close between 8 and 9 pm; stores in Guéliz open a bit later and close a bit earlier, some breaking for lunch. Some bazaars in the medina close on Friday, the Muslim holy day. In Guéliz, most shops are closed on Sunday.
Bargaining is part of the fun of shopping in the medina's souks. Go back and forth with the vendor until you agree on an acceptable price. If you are not sure if the vendor's "lowest price" is really the lowest, slowly leave the store—if the vendor follows you, then you can negotiate further. If bargaining is just not your thing and you don't mind paying a little extra, consider the shops of Guéliz. Although these shops are not as colorful as the souks, a reasonable variety of high-quality goods are on offer.
Many guides have (undeclared) affiliations with certain shops, and taking on a guide may mean you'll be delivered to the boutique of their choice, rather than your own discovery. You should be fine on your own, as long as you keep your eyes peeled for mini-adventures and touts. Small boutique shopkeepers who can't afford to tip guides will thank you for it.
There are also a few personal shopping guides working in Marrakesh (mostly European expats), trying to strike the best deal for the customer and take the pain out of seeking, finding and haggling for those "must-have" items.
If you tire of the haggling in the souk but still want to pick up a bargain, try visiting a fondouk. These were originally storehouses, workshops, and inns frequented by merchants and artisans on their journeys across the Sahara (known as caravanserai in the Middle East), and are still in use today, particularly by Berber merchants bringing carpets and other goods from surrounding villages; others are staffed by artisans at work on goods destined for the market. They're easily recognized by courtyards full of junk, usually with galleries on upper levels. Fondouks always keep their doors open, so feel free to look around. Because you deal with the artisans directly, there's less of a mark-up on prices. There are a couple of fondouks on the Dar el Bacha as you head towards the souk, and on Rue Bab Taghzout by the fountain known as Shrob ou Shouf ("Drink and Look").
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