• Lauren H

A Guide to Shopping in Morocco

Updated: Sep 22

What to buy, where to buy it, and how much to pay for it. Learn tips on negotiating and finding the highest quality rugs, ceramics, and more in Morocco.



No trip to Morocco is complete without some shopping. So many beautiful, high-quality items are available for sale at very reasonable prices. This article helps to answer: What are fair prices for rugs and other handmade goods in Morocco? How much should you negotiate? Which cities are best for shopping for rugs, ceramics, leather, pillows, and more? How can you tell if you are buying a good quality item?


I wish I had known all of this going into our trip, so I hope it is helpful for you! Happy Shopping!


Jump ahead to a section:


Pottery and Ceramics

Leather

Rugs

Pillow Cases

Scarves and Silk Goods

Argan Oil Products

Metal and Copper Goods

Spices

Other Shopping Tips for Morocco


Pottery and Ceramics

Fez is well known for its handmade ceramics, and supposedly has a better selection than Marrakesh. Be careful of pricing in Fez though. My friends and I were driven to a ceramics workshop and store in Fez where the prices were significantly higher than in Marrakesh (A platter was $150 in Fez v. $25 in Marrakesh). We found plenty of selection in both cities and ultimately ended up buying more in the Marrakech Medina. The ceramics store in Fez did sell custom floor tiles and larger tables with tile or mosaic tops, it was the only place I saw those items being sold.


A Mosaic Table Being Created at a Workshop in Fez
A Mosaic Table Being Created at a Workshop in Fez

The Pottery Shop in Fez
The Pottery Shop in Fez

We negotiated large platters down $20-$25USD and bought smaller pieces for $10-$15USD. A medium size Tagine should cost $7USD. To make sure you are buying a quality Tagine, look for a smooth inside. It shouldn't have fingerprints or imperfections. The cheap ones that aren’t made well will break easily and do not cook food properly.


Leather

If you want to shop for leather goods, plan to shop in Fez at the world renowned Tanneries. One unique part about the leather processing in Morocco is that no chemicals are used in the treating and dying process, they use pigeon poop instead. Since the leather is treated and dyed naturally, it’s water resistant.


Leather Dying and Treatment at a Fez Tannery
Leather Dying and Treatment at a Fez Tannery

After negotiating for a bulk purchase rate, we all bought leather jackets for $100-$130USD/ jacket. If you don’t find any you like, you can ask the store to change zippers, relocate zippers, have a certain size made or have a particular color made and they’ll create it. They will also deliver it to your hotel or riad that same day.


The Tanneries also sell purses, belts, shoes, and wallets. They sell leather poufs that can be used as ottomans or seats. They are an easily packable option to buy as well. The poufs pack down small and then it’s recommended that you stuff it with old t-shirts when you arrive home. The t-shirt stuffing worked well for us with the poufs we bought. Leather poufs should cost $75-$100USD.


Leather Goods for Sale at a Tannery in Fez
Leather Goods for Sale at a Tannery in Fez

Leather Poufs for Sale at a Tannery for Fez
Leather Poufs for Sale at a Tannery for Fez

Rugs

We heard mixed stories on which city in Morocco is best for buying rugs, but from what I saw Marrakesh had the largest selection of rugs. Pricing seemed similar between Fez, Marrakesh and even a small town we stopped on during our desert road trip.

Marrakesh had more modern style rugs than what we found in other locations, and it had all of the classics as well.


Examples of the Modern Rug Styles we Found in Marrakech
Examples of the Modern Rug Styles we Found in Marrakech

I’d recommend starting your rug shopping early in the day on your first day in Marrakesh. If you start to have an idea of what styles you like but can’t find a big enough size or want a smaller size, or even a different color, the stores will run around and look in offsite storage for more options. They will bring back more for you to look at later in the day or the next day. No two rugs there are identical though, so even if they go looking for you, they will likely find something similar, not exact.


The rugs are handmade, so they aren’t perfect. One thing to check for is to make sure all four edges are straight. Even knowing to look for this, I still ended up buying one with one less straight edge. You don’t notice once part of the rug is under furniture.


The shop owners can do some customization on rugs for you as well. They cut one big rug into two runners for me to buy. They also removed the fringe and edge decorations from some of the rugs I bought. They made all of these changes for no extra charge.


An Example of Moroccan Fringe that Could be Removed from a Rug for no Charge
An Example of Fringe that Could be Removed from a Rug for no Charge

There is a difference in quality amongst the rug stores as well. The carpets in the large, indoor stores seemed higher quality than what was hanging outside in the markets. Even amongst the stores you could tell a difference in quality too. Look for stitching coming loose, patterns that are not tightly woven and avoid anything ‘vintage’. See below for more details on ‘vintage’ goods.

Laying Out Rugs for Shoppers at an Indoor Marrakech Rug Store
Laying Out Rugs for Shoppers at an Indoor Marrakech Rug Store

The Moroccan shops can pack the rugs much smaller than you think. Multiple rugs could be wrapped up to become a normal size 2nd piece of luggage when you fly home. Having the stores ship rugs isn’t that expensive either. It is hard to say how much shipping is exactly, because it is tied into the overall negotiation. I’d roughly say it was a couple hundred US dollars for four large rugs. If you want to ship multiple rugs, then there’s an advantage to buying them all from the same store so that you only pay shipping once. The bigger stores will take credit cards as well.


We worked hard on pricing and negotiations and bought many rugs throughout the trip.

For higher quality rugs bought at indoor shops, the lowest rug prices we could negotiate were:

Runners- $200-$250USD

12x12- $800USD

15x17 $1000USD

Kitchen mat size- $50USD, or sometimes they would throw these in for free if you buy some other rugs


Buying more than one at one helped to lower prices in negotiations as well.


More intricate or tightly woven patterns also cost more. One of the patterns more than one store told us had a higher value is in a picture here.


An Example Moroccan Rug with a More Expensive Detailed Design
An Example Rug with a More Expensive, Detailed Design

The shop we ended up buying the most rugs at was Dar Mejbar. They had a great selection and the rugs were high quality. They put in a lot of effort to help us find the type of rugs we were looking for, made alterations, and were enjoyable to work with. Will Smith bought his rugs there too!


Decorative Pillow Cases

The largest selection of pillowcases was in Marrakesh. There are lots of cheap pillowcases ($5-$20USD) in the markets in the medina. To find them, start in the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa, and pick a street to head out on away from the square. Some of the rug stores also have higher quality pillowcases. The pillowcases with more complicated patterns at rug stores cost a bit more, $30USD or higher.

One way to determine the level of quality of a pillowcase is to see if the pattern is on both the front and back of the pillow or only on the back. If the pattern is on both sides then it is worth more.


A Pillowcase Vendor in Marrakech
A Pillowcase Vendor in Marrakech

Scarves and Silk Goods

Throughout Morocco they sell scarves made from various materials, including some made from cacti threads. We found them in both Fez and Marrakech. The indoor silk stores in Fez seemed to have higher quality scarves and silk goods, but we bought cotton scarves in the markets in Marrakesh too. They also sold silk fabrics by the yard in Fez.


A Silk Store in Fez
A Silk Store in Fez

We bought scarves for $15-$30USD. $15USD seemed to be the average price in the market in Marrakesh. $25-$30USD was the price for higher quality ones in silk stores in Fez. Silk and cacti scarves were more expensive than cotton ones.


Argan Oil Products

We shopped for Argan Oil products during a stop on our desert road trip. The store was right off the road after passing through the Atlas Mountains and before entering Marrakesh. We bought most Argan Oil hair and skin products for $10-$15USD each. A few of the spice storefronts in Marrakesh sold Argan products as well.


Metal and Copper Goods

You can buy copper cookware in Morocco for significantly cheaper than what it costs in the States. Fez is most well known for its copper goods. They sell intricate metal platters, lanterns, boxes, teapots, cookware and more.


A Craftsman Working on a Metal Platter in Fez
A Craftsman Working on a Metal Platter in Fez

Copper Goods for Sale in Fez
Copper Goods for Sale in Fez

Spices

Spices and teas can be bought in both Fez and Marrakech. Marrakech has colorful displays of spices that make great photos too. The vendors are happy to let you take pictures. Hibiscus tea was one of my favorites there.


Spices for Sale in Marrakech
Spices for Sale in Marrakech

Other shopping tips for Morocco…


Any items the Seller is calling “Vintage”

Avoid it, it’s not vintage. Sellers hang rugs outside in the sun and then try to sell them for more money because they are ‘vintage'. Beware of any seller who tries to start selling you on vintage items.


Negotiating

Negotiate everything. Don’t walk away because of an initial high price that scares you. The vendors start at 3,4,5x the price of where you can end up. They like to negotiate on paper or on calculators too.


Negotiating on Paper at a Rug Shop
Negotiating on Paper at a Rug Shop

Packing

I knew I wanted to shop a lot on this trip, so I packed one suitcase inside of another. On the way there I only had one checked back and on the way back I was able to fill the 2nd one with everything I shopped for. Away brand luggage all stacks inside of each other so they worked well for this.


Moroccan Rug Purchases Packed Down, Ready to Take Home
Our Rug Purchases Packed Down, Ready to Take Home

Guides

We hired a guide in both Fez and Marrakech to show us around the Medina. The guides were useful in teaching us what to look for when shopping and they helped us negotiate. They definitely seemed to have a kick-back arrangement with the stores they took us to though, so keep that in mind if you do hire a guide!


Trip Dates: September 1st -September 7th, 2019