Tag Archives: shopping

The Best of Essaouira: souvenir shopping

Basma shop EssaouiraMany visitors to Essaouira come via Marrakech to the coast (although this will change as more and more airlines fly directly to Essaouira). On arrival, they are often pleased to find that the medina is smaller and less overwhelming than that of Marrakech, and the shopkeepers and stall holders tend to drive a slightly easier bargain than their big city counterparts.

However, many of the shops sell the same kinds of souvenirs you can find all over the country. What if you want items that are distinctly local? Do not despair! Essaouira has a reputation as an artsy town and there are many local and expat artisans and artists offering unique gifts for you to take home. Here are some of the Best of Essaouira in terms of souvenirs.

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Marrak’chic

Riad Yima

Riad Yima Marrakech

Recycling à la marocaine

Very little is wasted in Morocco. Where many people can only afford the bare essentials, it’s important to make every dirham count. Completely ignorant of any potential disasters of mistaken identity, cleaning products are regularly sold in plastic drinks bottles. Olive oil is sold handily decanted into half or one litre water bottles.

Organised recycling is not yet common in Morocco. However, it happens on an informal level.

Read more of my second post, about recycling, upcycling and Marrak’chic on Drops of Elixir

Navigating the maze of the Marrakech medina

following the guide...

following the guide…

One of the most exciting aspects of a trip to Marrakech is rooting through the souks for an elusive bargain. However, it can also be one of the most daunting as the labyrinthine alleyways start to all look the same and the road you thought would lead you back to the main square (Place Jmaa el Fna) turns into a dead end.

There are signs, maps and guides, but my advice would be to just lose yourself in the markets and follow these simple tips to stay on the right track (and keep your sanity!)

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Essaouira excursions: Had Dra market

the market as a spectator sport

the market as a spectator sport

Had Dra is one of the largest markets in Morocco.  Animals, agricultural produce and manufactured products have been traded there for decades, probably centuries.  Essaouira was once the port which served Timbuktu, in modern-day Mali – passing the riches of the camel trains out to the world and exchanging them for goods from European traders.  Not so long ago, we can imagine, slaves would have been traded at Had Dra – 40km inland and on the road to Marrakech.

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Misshapen Vegetables

white radishes and beans

white radishes and beans

There are so many paradoxes in the Western/Northern concept of ‘progress’.  One of the absurdities of modern life is our apparent desire for perfectly formed fruit and vegetables – all year round, regardless of their natural season in the country of purchase.

One of the things I love about visiting Essaouira in Morocco is our daily trip to the market.

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Marrakesh: Gift shopping in the souks

the souks in Marrakech

the souks in Marrakech

I love the crafts and goods for sale in Morocco and I love a shopping mission to hunt down the perfect gift for friends and family.  I have already written about the hunt for ma’quda to decorate towels as a present for my mum; buying spices; and my hunt for a handcrafted zellij mosaic (OK, that was a present for myself!).

The bargaining and haggling can be a bit daunting, but all you need to know are my top five tips to keep your wits (if not your cash) in the souk:

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Essaouira: the Spice Souk

traditional spice shop

traditional spice shop

The spice shelf in your average British supermarket has come a long way over the last 10 years, but there’s nothing like buying exotic spices in exotic countries (for a fraction of the price). Last time I was in Morocco, I brought back spices for festive baking and Christmas presents.

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The complexities of Moroccan shopping

hundreds and thousands

hundreds and thousands

I love shopping in Morocco.  There are so many artisans making beautiful handmade crafts which have disappeared (if they ever existed) in Europe, such as beautiful mosaics.  Because they make things, people can also fix things – I have had jewellery and shoes fixed in Morocco that I couldn’t get fixed in the UK.  The ‘make do and mend,’ hand-crafted mentality really appeals to me.

On a recent trip, I decided to give it a go myself.  Continue reading

Moorish mosaic

Essaouira port skala

Essaouira port skala

“Do you know anyone who sells tiles?” I asked our new-found companion in Essaouira. That was probably not the most common procurement question he was asked by European tourists.  With his eyes – as my friend Susan said – “at quarter to three”, he apparently frequently enjoyed one of Morocco’s more common exports and seemed to make his living as a tourist leech.

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Rockin’ Maroc

Koutoubia mosque

Koutoubia mosque

I love Marrakech.  Parts of the medina look like life hasn’t changed since the middle ages, yet Marrakech is very firmly on the map of the international party jet set.  I love the colours, the setting (between palms, mountains and the desert), the architecture and the friendly, hospitable people.

Being a tourist in Marrakech can be hot, sweaty and hectic.  So, my top tips are a mixture of throw-yourself-in-there activity and retreat-and-take-a-breath hideaways. Continue reading