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The Marrakech Diaries: When, Where & How to Haggle in Marrakech

Published: 24 September 2018

Coming from a culture where fixed prices are the norm, it can be intimidating to come to a society which, by reputation, haggles over the price of just about everything.  However, in Morocco, haggling applies only in certain circumstances and for specific items.  It would not be appropriate, for example, to haggle in a restaurant, at a cafe, in the food market or any of the many modern chain stores. So, if you're in Marrakech and don’t feel up to the ritual, stick to the many modern stores.   However, haggling does apply, and is expected, for all the traditional craft items you find in the souks.  If you are considering a property purchase in Morocco, the price is certainly up for negotiation, as would be the case in most other countries.

In my experience it is wise not to start the bargaining process unless you have the intention to buy.   You need time to haggle, and spending time chatting to the stall owners, browsing and checking out the goods is time well spent.  Creating the right atmosphere is really important.  A smile and politeness goes a long way, so even if you don't buy, you leave on good terms.  You can always come back later if, on reflection, you really want that particular item, and you'll be amazed, even if return after a few days, at how well the shop owner will remember you.  

Once you have made up your mind that the colourful scarf, hand-painted tagine or intricately designed lamp is the one you would like to buy, then the game begins.  Moroccans like haggling.  To agree on the asking price is just not cricket.  So, what are the guidelines?  I have checked these out with my Moroccan friends.  The consensus is that you should halve the asking price as your opening bid and slowly increase your offer before settling at about three quarters of the stall holders original price.   If the asking price is way beyond your budget at the start, politely say so and walk away at this stage.

Don’t be intimidated by what you might perceive as rip off merchants. Ultimately they would rather sell a large number of goods at a reasonable price, than wait for one gullible tourist.  By walking around, browsing and chatting, you quickly get an idea of what the starting price will be for different things.

Never start the rug-buying process on an empty stomach.  It's a wonderful, if lengthy, experience that involves lots of mint tea and lots of delving into piles and piles of neatly folded rugs that are dramatically unfurled and laid all over the floor, creating a giant mosaic, until you find the perfect one.  An idea at the start is to ask the stall holder to show you the different types of rugs available.  If you ask for an approximate price of each type of rug you can then do the maths - knock roughly 25-30% off all the figures you are given and you know roughly what you're going to end up paying.  You can then start to hone in on a style and size of rug that will suit your budget. 

The art of rug-making is traditionally done by Moroccan women who would come together in the evening to chat and weave.  Each region has a unique weaving style, and different ingredients from the local area that create the natural dyes for the wool.  They even spin yarn from different animal hair - mountain tribes use sheep's wool, desert tribes use camel hair.  So rugs from each part of Morocco are clearly identifiable by their pattern, texture and colour.  

The Berber rugs from the Atlas mountains, or Beni Ourain rugs as they are known locally, are very luxurious and you see them featured regularly in home styling magazines.  They are cream-coloured sheep's wool rugs with a very thick pile and brown or black geometric lines.  We paid approximately £150 for ours, and in the winter, there is nothing in our house I love more!

As a rule of thumb, the Moroccans enjoy meeting visitors to their country, they enjoy a chat, and they certainly enjoy a good-natured haggle! So, head to the souks with plenty of time in hand and hone your skills in the art of negotiation..... and you'll be surprised how often  it's worth giving haggling a go when you get back to the UK too!  

Traditional Moroccan riads are calming and relaxing places, often just a short walk from the souks, down the winding alleyways of the ancient city.  Riads offer a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the markets and a couple of examples of riads for sale in the Medina, Marrakech would be:  


Famous artist's Marrakech home and studio

3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 receptions

Romantic courtyard with colonnaded archways and mature citrus trees

Stunning original features

Good-sized roof terrace

Big artists workshop

Right in the heart of the souks

Perfect family bolt-hole in the sun

€256,470


Perfect Medina Bolt-hole with a Great Lettings History

2-bed riad in a friendly district

Sunny roof terrace

Shady, cool courtyard

Making an impressive return on Air BnB

€143,100


Boutique Hotel - the Ideal Lifestyle Business

Beautiful 6-bed riad with stunning interiors

Ideal lifestyle business with an excellent reputation and a 5-star rating

Spacious roof terrace with mountain views

Fully staffed and self-sufficient.  

€649,500



A further selection of riads for sale in Marrakech here and, if you are planning a trip to Morocco and would like updates for all our Marrakech top-tips, register here

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