Shopping in Morocco
Shopping is not a pastime in Morocco – it’s the way of life, and the unique souks (traditional covered bazaars) and markets found throughout the country, from the enormous labyrinths in Marrakech and Fez to the earnest everyday bustle of rural town markets, are one of Morocco’s greatest visitor attractions.
At the other end of the scale, Morocco Mall, stretching across 10 hectares (25 acres) of Casablanca, is North Africa’s largest shopping centre. The larger souks are often loosely divided into quarters hosting different trades and vendors, such as spice merchants, pottery sellers, jewellery-makers and leather-workers.
Haggling is a traditional necessity, so never pay regard to initial prices. Instead fix an items value in your mind then negotiate towards it unhurriedly (Moroccans never rush their bargaining), and don’t be afraid to simply walk away if the price isn’t right.
For visitors the main draw in Morocco is the range of handcrafts. Traditional metal-work lamps, and the distinctive blue-and-white glazed earthenware from Fez are ever popular and relatively inexpensive purchases. However, it’s a misconception that another specialty here, rugs and carpets, are also cheap. They aren’t – and the best hand-knotted examples usually carry a four-figure price-tag.
If you venture out of the city and into the High Atlas, look out for local specialities such as argan oil, rose water, olive oil, Berber jewellery and precious minerals. Foodstuffs – including walnuts, dates, preserved lemons, almonds and saffron – also make tasty souvenirs.
Mon-Thurs 0900-1230 and 1530-1900, Fri 0900-1100 and 1530-1900. Shops in new towns are often open Friday afternoons and Sundays.
Souvenirs sold at the roadside – particularly minerals, gems and argan oil – are often fakes. The skill exhibited by Moroccan gem painters, however, gives some false crystals value in their own right.
Nightlife in Morocco
Morocco offers a variety of diversions nightly, including bars, discos and restaurants, often with live music or belly dancing as part of the evening’s entertainment. The party usually gets started around midnight, when dining tables are shoved out of the way to accommodate serious hip-shaking, and the fashionable make their entrance in nightclubs.
Club culture is centred around Marrakech and Casablanca, with palatial discos and cocktail lounges blending Eastern and Western culture. Late-night cafes are a way of life in cosmopolitan Tangier, while Agadir is infamous for its resort-style nightlife. Most large hotels offer entertainment in the form of bars or boutique clubs.
There are also casinos in Marrakech, Mohammedia, Tangier and Agadir. Be prepared for only low-key, or no, entertainment in smaller centres. High-stakes entertainment can’t compare to the cheap, fantastic thrills of halqa, the street theatre performances by acrobats, musicians and cross-dressing belly dancers who perform for spare change in city squares across Morocco, especially Tangier and the Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakech (UNESCO’s World Heritage site for oral history).
Most Moroccan cities are relatively safe after dark, but it’s wise for female clubbers not to venture out alone or in small groups. Bear in mind that alcohol is only served in a small number of establishments.