No visit to Marrakech is complete without a visit to the famous souks, a seemingly inescapable maze of open and covered markets selling everything imaginable. And who doesn’t want to obtain a few good deals when shopping for souvenirs on holiday?
We all know that stall and shop owners hike prices when they see a tourist approaching but don’t let this knowledge deter you from trying to extract the best price.
Local traders expect it. Indeed, haggling is part of the very culture in the Arab world, not least in a tourist city as popular as Marrakech.
Okay, so you’ve spotted a beautiful hand-crafted item that you simply must take home as a ‘look where I’ve been’ brag item to decorate your lounge; here’s how to barter in Marrakech:
- Take a stroll around the shop/market and see what the general asking price is for similar items – you’ll probably find (by asking – items are rarely priced) that things cost pretty much the same but it’s good to know.
- Have an idea in your head about how much you’re willing to pay. Around 70 per cent of the asking price is usually a good indicator of an item’s worth but the most important thing to remember is that, whatever the asking price, you should be prepared only to pay what you think the item is worth to you.
- Approach the seller with confidence; you may be a tourist but you’re a savvy tourist and you know that if you don’t buy from this trader you can buy elsewhere. He also knows that.
- Offer less than what you’re actually prepared to pay – perhaps half the quoted price, or even less. The seller will probably feign shock or contempt (and you may almost be fooled, so convincing is the performance) and reject your offer out of hand. In which case you’ll add a few dirhams to your initial offer to reach, say, 60-70% of the original asking price. The seller may now accept or, more likely, maintain the shocked expression with which he greeted your first offer muttering something about having numerous children to support and a living to make. Now it’s time for you to shrug and walk away (and don’t hesitate, or look back, not even for a peek!). Invariably, the seller will call you back and agree to your price, or a figure just above it– and you’ll be the proud owner of a gorgeous hand-made article or souvenir.
- Successful bartering is all about timing and attitude. You need to appear positively nonchalant, giving the impression that it will be of no consequence to you whatever if you walk out of the shop empty handed. On the other hand, as a reasonable person, you would not wish to make an offer so low as to be positively insulting.
For the uninitiated, haggling can be a touch intimidating but when you’ve completed your first successful deal you may find it hard to stop. Indeed, haggling in the souks can be addictive. But whether you’re successful at it or not you’ll probably agree that it’s an essential part of the complete Marrakech experience.