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The Kingdom of Morocco is steeped in the mystique of ancient ways, yet its major population centers including Rabat, Casablanca and Marrakech have blended traditional and cosmopolitan. The result is a heady combination of old-world charm and mesmerizing beauty whether one is exploring hidden corners of the Rabat medina or haggling with consummate negotiators at the souks of Marrakech.
Morocco is a land of endless treasures and secrets waiting to be a discovered. UNESCO recognized a number of Moroccan medinas as World Heritage sites. These sites are considered significant architecturally, geographically and historically that, by their very existence and preservation, add value to humanity.
The medinas at Tetouan, Fez, Mazagan and Essaouira are exceptional in that they provide glimpses of how the architectural and engineering skills of different cultures influenced Moorish construction. Morocco’s World Heritage sites embody the kingdom's eclectic history; Andalusian, Arab, ancient Roman and Portuguese influences are evident in these structural and geographic marvels.
However, you cannot claim to have truly experienced Morocco without surviving a shopping adventure at the souks. In Marrakech, the souks are colorful, musical and world-renown as some of the most exotic and bewildering places to shop even for jaded travelers.
In Morocco, haggling is a way of life, which makes a visit all the more exciting since everything from taxi fare to the prices for Moroccan slippers called babouches are negotiable. Haggling is social interaction undertaken with much humor and respect between merchant and buyer. It is a test of skills, strategy and willpower. How does one, with inadequate proficiency in the local language, score souk treasures at acceptable prices?
The secret lies in keeping a poker face throughout the haggling process. Inquire about prices only if you are truly interested in the item. Be patient and be prepared to counteroffer several times until you reach an impasse or an acceptable price level. However, be polite at all times even when you decide to walk away without buying. As often happens, when merchants wish to sell to you, they will find you in a crowded souk after you walk away.
All prices are relative when shopping at the souk. The fair price is whatever value you attach to the item expressed in the amount of dirham you are willing to give for it. Haggling is an acquired skill. If you don't have the fortitude or patience for a drawn-out process, consider souk-shopping with a local who knows the language and the customs, or team up with another traveler.
The labyrinthine layout of the souks can be daunting for the uninititated. Traditional souks are laid out in a specific pattern with the most valuable goods such as gold, precious stones and manuscripts located at the center of the main souk. Lower-value products will be found in dizzying arrays around the core with each souk named for the category of the products being hawked within. In Marrakech, begin at Jemaa el Fna and make your way through the maze of goods to the Musee de Marrakech.
Best Time To Visit:
The inland cities of Marrakech, Fez and Meknes are relentlessly hot in the summer, but the temperatures become bearable in winter from October to December. Even so, plan on an early morning or late evening schedule when exploring the souks to enjoy the sights and the haggling adventure even more.
The coastal area of Morocco from Tangier to the Agadir resort area is more temperate with average temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit in winter and 75 degrees in the summer. Precipitation is minimal and mostly in the northern area, so plan on enjoying the coastal regions during the months of May to September. Extreme temperature changes can be expected in the Atlas mountains, dropping below minus 8 degrees in winter and rising above 105 degrees during the summer.