Gillian traveled in Marrakech for six days.
Popular among tourists and locals, the Jamaa El-Fna market in the Medina quarter of Marrakech is a shopper’s paradise. With gorgeous, glowing Moroccan lamps, beautiful traditional dresses, silver bohemian jewelry, incredible pieces of art, great leather goods, and a plethora of food options, you can easily fill up an entire suitcase with fantastic local products. But within such a labyrinthine market, it can be overwhelming if you are not well-prepared for both the chaos and the customs of Jamaa El-Fna. Follow the five tips listed below to shop like a pro and avoid the mayhem!
1. Shop on the Moroccan side of the market.
The further away from the main, touristic side of the market, the better prices you’ll get. Look for locals shopping at the market stands rather than fellow tourists.
Because most shop owners will ask for double the price of their product, begin by bargaining down 50% from the main price. Work your way up from there, but be firm in your amount. If the shop owner does not budge from their original price, then just walk away. More likely than not, they will give you the product for your desired price!
3. Eat at a stall that doesn’t have someone handing out menus.
With the hundreds of food options at the market, finding a place for dinner can be incredibly overwhelming. To narrow down your options, sit down at a stall that does not have eager employees inviting you to dine with them. Make sure to ask for a menu first, rather than pointing at the food. They will overcharge otherwise and add on other dishes that you did not order. I recommend stall #22 for great service and delicious food.
4. Do not let anyone force their product on you.
If someone grabs your arm to give you a henna tattoo, or puts an elaborate hat on your head, turn away immediately. Otherwise, they will aggressively ask for an exorbitant amount of money for something that you did not want in the first place.
5. Do not ask the public for directions.
While this may appear as an extremely strange concept, you should never ask a stranger for help getting to a destination. Most people will lead you out of the way, down dark alleys, and then ask for money for their assistance. Instead, if you buy something small at a roadside stand, the shop owner will be happy to help you navigate the winding streets of Marrakech.
Photos: Wendy Hung
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