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A Humble Guide to the Souk Negotiation Experience


Moroccan Souks – Western culture teaches us that negotiation is not considered “nice”.

Now you’re preparing for your trip to Morocco. You’re excited from all the colourful images of the majestic dunes in the Sahara desert. The ever-changing landscapes, the lush vegetation on the Atlas and Rif mountains, glorious sunsets from one of the thousand medina terraces.

Everything is just great and you want to bring home a piece (or many pieces!) of the intricate Moroccan craftsmanship, and you know that negotiation is the key to complete this mission at the Moroccan Souk.

This is where I’m going to take you, I will virtually hold your hand to guide you through the experience of a beautiful, satisfying, friendly negotiation in the Moroccan Souks.

Souks in a coastal Medina | Negotiation
Souks in a coastal Medina

Moroccan Souks – The customer has also the responsibility

Besides living in Marrakech for 4 years, I am originally from Turkey, and I grew up in Italy. I think I have enough experience by now to teach you a tip or two to enjoy your negotiation without stress.I won’t deny I did some research before writing this post but got nothing new to add value to what was originally my intention.

What I want everybody to know is that it is not all about the money.

I was reading all these travel blogs and travel guides, and I noticed that none of these sources ever mentioned the feelings of both the customer and the seller. No one mentioned their responsibility.

Modern society and ever-improving customer service have led the client to feel like a king/queen, and to be able to complete a negotiation with ease here, we have to first step down from that throne. Dear friends, negotiations did not start with the FBI, nor as a sneaky tactic to get what we want for cheap.

Negotiation, bargaining, it’s pure human interaction. We are at the same level, all of us. It’s a beautiful connection. The only way it should end is with a vigorous handshake, a big smile, a belly full of tea… don’t you think?


Step 1

Where to start? Do your homework

The shopping paradise of Morocco is Marrakech, but the first tip to be a smart buyer is to know where to buy your goods.

Pretty much every city of Morocco has something special concerning local craftsmanship, here’s a little list:

  • Safi: Delicate ceramics
  • Fez: Embroideries, fine painting and leather goods (the famous tanneries are here)
  • Meknes: Tilework as known as Zellij (or Zellige), metalwork, woodwork
  • Essaouira: Gnawa music instruments, Argan Oil
  • Taroudant/Taliouine: Saffron
  • Ouarzazate / Tazenakht: Carpets
  • Tiznit: Silver

Early sunset in Jemaa le Fna, Marrakech

Jewellery Tour Marrakech 2
Specialist Jewellery Shopping Tour

Step 2

Be Present, conscious and remember where you are

Here’s the juicy part! Many times we just forget about the process! How many of you are on a consciousness journey?

The goal is only the final result, what you will be always remembering is how you got there.
This works for everything in life, and yes, you can apply the same philosophy even if you’re in the middle of a negotiation for a lamp.

I know how you feel when you walk in the Moroccan souks, in most of the Moroccan cities: overwhelmed and hyper-stimulated. You look around, see bags, plates, carpets, shoes, lamps and colourful spices. Everybody calling, asking you “what is this” or “smell that” to catch your attention and intrigue you.

Be present, make a list, write how much you think it’s a fair price for each item you want to buy. Go to the manager of the riad where you’re staying and ask them how much they would pay for said items.

Voilà, you have your first idea, and you already feel more confident, isn’t it?
In fact, the panic caused by the Moroccan souks, it’s nevertheless our own confusion and lack of preparation. Once we are grounded and present, there is nothing to be afraid of or worth panicking for.

You can enter the shop that inspires you the most and get ready for the most difficult thing…choosing what you want!

Spices and solid perfumes | Negotiation
Spices and solid perfumes

Step 3

Look who is in-front of you

Exactly, in front of us there is a person, and yes, they might have said something that sounds rough to our middle-western ears, but there’s nothing farther from the truth.

Arabic is a very mandatory language; in this language, there are not all the nice forms we use to decorate all our sentences (“please, make yourself comfortable”) it’s powerful and direct.

So, by acknowledging this information, remember that the seller that is telling you just to “sit!” or “drink!” or “look!” is not giving you an order…is simply speaking another language translating it directly from Arabic.

Remember that most of the sellers in the Moroccan souks, learned a language (or two, or three) only by the contact with tourists in the street, how inspiring is that?

Sponges that soaked up the most important information for their business, going for it with great confidence because the rest of the communication will be made of gestures and looks and smiles.

Of course, with the new generations stepping up, becoming more educated and akin to perceptions that are more familiar to us, the situation is changing very fast.

You might have been told to SIT roughly, but then served a delicious tea with a grand bow and the warmest smile ever seen…and that is when you will see that you have been elected King or Queen again. Beautiful.

Decorative tajine and plates - Moroccan Souks
Decorative tajine and plates

Step 4

Open up for negotiation

I have a preamble to do: in every other richer country, the “scams” alerted in Morocco are legalised and made as if they were the only truth.

Here, sellers start at a higher price. What they innocently know is that you sure earn enough and more than them (why you would be on a holiday and trying to do shopping otherwise?) and you are willing to spend money because you’re on “vacay mood”.
But this opens up for incredibly good deals. Sometimes the shop owner needs money on that day because of a sudden expense and he might sell for cheaper.

Or what you want has been up for sale for months and they just want to get rid of it.

Ask the seller about himself, he will appreciate the interest you have in his life, and you will love to hear stories from such close but different realities!

If you feel like you are getting a high price and feel intimidated by the situation, tell the seller what your budget is and state what you do for a living. Give them a chance to justify your budget and empathise with you. Or to just tell you what is the last price leaving you free to decide with no pressure. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Most sellers never left the country, how they are supposed to know what you can afford or how is life in your part of the world? They see only people on holiday 365 day of the year!

Chefchaouen souk or “souq”(market street) - Moroccan Souks
Chefchaouen souk or “souq”(market street)

Step 5

Get it

Now we’re closer. Did you choose one or a few items? Remember to negotiate in a different way either way…for example, I always like to ask for an additional present or discount when I buy more things. I never choose this gift unless they tell me “Choose what you want!”.

As a joke, I always picked something expensive and we ended up having a fat laugh, patting shoulders like best buddies for that limited time and that feeling it’s exactly the final purpose of the negotiation!

It has to be fun, trust is built up during the first moments: if you show that you did your homework, you’ll be respected as a good negotiator. That’s the moment when the silly games are over and the pressure will be gone. You will feel confident in buying your own classic tagine (not decorated) for 50,00 MAD or your cow skin weekend-bag for 400,00 MAD without feeling the need to bring the negotiation to exhaustion.

Now you can book your tour all over Morocco, with the knowledge of being a much well informed traveller! ; )

Thank you to Burcin for this wonderful guest blog which absolutely captures the way I always intend to shop even if I sometimes fail. When I see tourists posting guides on how to negotiate in the souks full of advice on how to “knock down” the seller to almost nothing for the valuable item they purchased and offering advice to “not get caught up in conversation” – I die a little inside because they have surely missed the point and lost the opportunity to fully engage in the experience as an ethical tourist. What do you think – comment below . .



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