Shopping, Haggling, Anti-Hassle Tips for Marrakech
Marrakech can be a culture shock for some – the almost medieval hustle and bustle of Marrakech is so completely different from what most travellers know that they often find themselves in situations to which they have no idea how to react. Here are a few tips:
Shopping in Marrakech
Shopping in Marrakech is an exceptionally unique experience. There are many beautiful items to be found: exotic Moroccan carpets, spices, textiles & yarn, metal ware, jewellery, woodwork and much more.
If you cannot face the bargaining experience, then please ask the riad for the name of an “Aladdin’s Cave” style shop, where there is no bargaining but loads of typical Moroccan trinkets and plenty of choice. It is vast, so expect to spend several hours there!
Before hitting the souks read these few practical tips:
Haggling in Marrakech
Souks are a way of life in Morocco and you usually won’t have to go far to find one. You can get some great bargains, but you can also get ripped off! Remember that the Moroccans have a lot more experience than you when it comes to haggling. Carpet sellers or any souk holder, come to that, can be a total pain and you need to understand the rules to turn haggling into an enjoyable experience.
First, make sure you are in the right mood for some friendly haggling. If you’re not feeling energetic and positive, I’d leave it for another time. Best to do it when you’re fresh and can keep it fun. You don’t want to be growling at the end of the day when yet another merchant invites you into his store and you just want to be left alone.
Shopkeepers will normally set the initial asking price for an item several times higher to its potential selling price and you are expected to bargain every bit as hard as the shopkeeper! Otherwise, you will pay more than necessary and possibly purchase an item you don’t even want!
Be clear in your mind how much you would be prepared to pay – divide by 10 to quickly calculate the price in € and ask yourself if you would pay that amount in Europe for the item.
Do not point or show great enthusiasm (sometimes difficult!) but rather demonstrate indifference whether you buy or not. As a rule of thumb, offer at the most 1/3 of his price as your opening bid. If you end up paying half the original asking price, that’s about right. We have had clients who started off offering 10% of the initial asking price and ended up paying about a third – and got a great deal. They had been to India before and so had prior experience in what I’m told is a lot more rigorous market!
Stick to your gut instinct, be patient and pay only what you think is fair. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel you have reached your limit! This is, in fact, a great tactic as they usually come running after you and drop the price yet again!
You can mention that there are other places you want to check out before making a decision.
The trick is to treat the shopkeepers firmly but politely – here are a few useful phrases:
Useful Arabic phrases when haggling:
- La! = No!
- La, shukran! = No, thank you.
- Mish eise hagga. = I don’t want anything.
- If you’re getting on well with a Moroccan say “Al hamdu lillah” when either of you mentions something positive – which means “Praise God”.
- Say “Inshallah” when referring to the future. You will find that this word is used in virtually every conversation.
Most merchants though can easily converse in several languages and call out to you as you pass in what they think is your language. And if you think you can converse in a language other than English to agree on negotiating tactics with your travelling partner, don’t be surprised if they start talking to you in that language!
- Unless you are dying for a cup of tea while shopping or really want to buy something, turn down any offers of a cup of tea – this is the opening ritual for some tough bargaining and they have you as a captive audience. Westerners usually feel guilty if they don’t buy anything after having accepted some mint tea – so don’t fall into the trap to begin with!
- Don’t trust what young men on the street tell you and don’t tell them where you are staying. They sometimes deliberately tell you the wrong way!
- If they say they are the husband/wife/cousin/brother/sister of someone who works in the riad you’re staying in, don’t believe them and move on your way
- Be very clear and firm about your needs. If you show any indecision or vagueness they put on the pressure. All kinds of tricks are used to involve you in conversation – e.g. where are you from? Are you English, German, French etc…..
- Best to remain polite, friendly but firm and walk on as if you know where you are going, even if you don’t.