FEATURE

My Marrakech Is Better Than Yours

When she isn't trying to open a hotel or being a professional shopper, Maryam Montague blogs about life in Morocco. We can't think of a better guide to this bewitching—but often rather bewildering—city.

Bargaining is the name of the game, and despite what vendors say, they do have different prices for tourists and locals. Start by offering one third of the vendor's price (offer even less for carpets), and then gradually work your way to a happy compromise.

For the best prices, skip the shops on the outskirts of the Jemaa el-Fna and venture into the heart of the souks. Make a pit stop at the place des Ferblantiers to visit Najib La Joie. You can get tiny lanterns with panes of colored glass for $3 or less; they're so cheap, it's practically criminal not to buy several. For jersey caftans starting at $120--and gorgeous vintage ones--try Kasbek. They're perfect for when you host a Moroccan dinner party.

In the Mouassine district, Cadeaux Berberes has some fantastic Moroccan pottery at prices so fair that wholesalers shop there. Take a look at the painted pottery sinks for around $30. Down the road, on the wall of the Mouassine Mosque, you'll find a make­shift gallery of black-and-white photography. You can pick up a copy of a wonderful photo of old Morocco for about $10.

If you're interested in Moroccan carpets, Bazar Jouti, in the carpet souk, has a very nice selection. Offer a quarter of the price listed on the tag, and let the bargaining begin! Miloud Art Gallery, in Souk Cheratine, has a well-edited collection of poufs, pillows, clothes, lanterns, and bags. I'll say it again: Bargain!

Most of the shops at the Ensemble Artisanal, in the Kasbah district, aren't worth your time. Maison du Cuivre is an exception, with its fine lanterns, mirrors, and bowls. Also in the Kasbah is Light Gallery, which has a reliably hip collection of art.

On Thursday and Sunday mornings, you'll find Bab el Khemis market at the gate of the same name. Amid the broken clocks and TV remote controls are genuine treasures, such as vintage teapots and tea trays. I've been known to scout there for The Peacock Nest.

In the New City, the shopping is less atmospheric, but there are fewer hassles, as fixed prices are the norm. Elbow your way through the throngs who come to buy designer-inspired leather shoes at Atika Boutique. The $70 pebble-soled driving loafers are particularly coveted. And although the stylish leather goods at Place Vendôme, a well-known shop in Guéliz, aren't as cheap as they are at the souks, the quality is significantly better.

Maison Rouge Décoration is a Belgian-run shop with streamlined North African designs. The linens and painted glass plates are pricey but worth a look.

About 10 minutes out of the city center is the industrial zone, Sidi Ghanem. Akkal stocks minimalist pottery in striking colors and shapes. To rock the casbah back home, pay a visit to Maison Méditerranéenne, a showroom with everything from ornately carved beds to armchairs that cost less than $150.

Go to award-winning Zid Zid Kids, in the Daoudiate district, for embroidered animal-shaped pillows and other perfectly crafted children's stuff. Prices at this, the warehouse, are far less than what you'd pay at fancy stores back home in the U.S.

  • Najib La Joie 44 place des Ferblantiers, Médina, 011-212/41-19-09-50
  • Kasbek 216 rue Riad Zitoun J'did, Médina, 011-212/63-77-56-90
  • Cadeaux Berberes 31 Moissine, Médina, 011-212/64-01-32-20
  • Bazar Jouti 28 Souk des Tapis, 011-212/66-08-89-80
  • Miloud Art Gallery Souk Cheratine, Talaa 48, Médina, 011-212/24-42-67-16
  • Maison du Cuivre Ensemble Artisanal, ave. Mohamed V, Kasbah, 011-212/61-50-98-24
  • Light Gallery 2 Derb Chtouka, Kasbah, 011-212/24-38-45-65
  • Atika Boutique 34 rue de la Liberté, Guéliz, 011-212/24-43-64-09
  • Place Vendôme 141 ave. Mohamed V, Guéliz, 011-212/24-43-52-63
  • Maison Rouge Décoration 6 rue de la Liberté, Guéliz, 011-212/24-44-81-30
  • Akkal 322 Z.I. Sidi Ghanem, 011-212/24-33-59-38, akkal.net
  • Maison Méditerranéenne 230 Z.I. Sidi Ghanem, 011-212/24-33-60-00
  • Zid Zid Kids 338 BI. 71, Unit 2, Daoudiate, 011-212/63-47-72-92, zidzid.com, by appointment only

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When we first moved here, my husband would throw open the curtains every morning and say jokingly, "Another lousy day." It's almost always sunny and, with the exception of July (hot) and August (scorching), there's never a bad time to visit. Not surprisingly, outdoor activities abound, day and night.

INSIDER'S MARRAKECH


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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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