My visit to Marrakesh was my first time ever to Morocco, part of my recent 50-day solo trip around the world. Now that I'm now blogging about my travel experiences for my newly launched website, Astrid Solo Travel Advisor, I 'm always seeking to uncover a destination’s unique people, culture, places or things.
While in Marrakesh, I hired a private guide, Mr. Abdellatif BENJANE, for a day to take me into the various medina workshops where the local goods were made. My goal was to get a better understanding of Moroccan craftsmanship and to buy some goods straight from the creator, hopefully at rock bottom prices. This plan of action turned out to be a smart shopping strategy because my wonderful guide led me to the city’s best artisan workshops and vendors, a truly extraordinary shopping day.
Marrakesh is well-known for its carpet bazaar and many carpet sellers. However, buying a beautiful carpet at an excellent price can be very difficult. It is my belief carpet vendors are the best hagglers in the world. Hiring someone who knows the dealers, speaks their language, understands their selling tactics plus someone who will help you negotiate the lowest price possible will pay off in spades.
We started our shopping day by visiting a well known, long-standing antiques and carpet store, Chateau des Souks, located at 44, Souk Semmarine. One of the items on my shopping list was a carpet for my daughter’s apartment. I set my target price for a beautiful, high quality, handmade 4x6 Moroccan carpet at $500, something I knew would be a challenge to find.
I spent nearly an hour viewing more than 30 rugs. Ironically, the rug I had my eye on was one of the first ones I saw. Coyly, I passed over it saying it wasn’t that great. Strategically, I was attempting to wear down the merchant and his hired help who were both laying out many weighty rugs for me that day.
Carpet merchants don’t like showing you more than five to eight rugs. They believe you will be confused by viewing more options making it harder for them to control the rug purchasing experience and ultimately ,getting you to make a decision. By frustrating the merchant with asking to see a lot of options, you are somewhat taking control of the situation when rejecting the merchandise. I have found this rejection technique fuels the determination of the seller to finalize a sale through the competitive nature of the process. The more you say NO, the better price you will get.
At the end of the 45-minute rug display I said, “I’m not really interested in buying any of the rugs I had seen.” At that point the merchant pulled my guide aside to talk privately. At this point I knew he was now ready to make a deal. After their conversation my guide shared the vendor really wanted to make a sale.
Next, I asked him to show me once again all of the 4x6 rugs he had especially the ones with electric, indigo blue-- my daughter’s favorite color-- in them. Four of the carpets had this color. I asked the price of the one I was targeting and he said $4,500, a price that was definitely out of the question for my budget. I told the guide I was willing to pay $500 for the rug. The seller became agitated and countered with $4,000. I laughed and said, “No way! $500 is my offer take it or leave it.”
He came back with $3,000, $2,200, and then $1,800 but I wouldn’t budge. Once again, my guide was summoned for a private conversation. Mr. BENJANE came back and said I was the first customer of the day, and the merchant’s sales had been poor the last few months due the lack of tourist traffic to Marrakesh. Now I sensed I really had the upper hand. For my last offer I threw out $800 via credit card purchase and he would pay the shipping-- approximately $250-- to my pleasant surprise he accepted. Net price of the rug less shipping costs was $550. Chi Ching!
Quickly, I paid for my purchase, filled out the shipping paperwork, thanked the merchant and left before he changed his mind. This carpet merchant wasn’t happy but a sale that morning was better than no sale.
The bottom line is there are no set prices to anything in markets where haggling takes place. Determine what you are willing to spend and just go for it. You never know when you will get lucky!
One last comment, my guide played a key role in getting the carpet merchant to make the deal with me. He shared I was a seasoned traveler and an experienced shopper whom he was escorting me through the souks that day. Also, he shared that if he didn’t sell me something, then I would buy from another dealer. Had I tried to wear the merchant down alone, I do not believe he would have been as inclined to conclude the sale. The pressure my guide asserted was the "key" to getting a great deal, which is the last piece of carpet buying wisdom I'll leave you with. Two hagglers are better than one!
Are you interested in traveling to Marrakesh? Please share plans in the comments section and I’ll happily connect you to the guide I used.
Enjoy the following video to get an idea of what you will experience when shopping in the fabulous souks of Marrakesh. Happy haggling!