Visiting Morocco: where to buy foody souvenirs, and whether or not to visit Essaouira.
February 14, 2009 9:46 AM   Subscribe

I have two questions about my 11-day trip to Morocco (Marrakech, Essaouira, Meknes, and Fes) starting next week.

1) Is Essaouira worth the journey to and from Marrakech if I'm mainly headed north, or would it be better to have more time in Meknes and Fes?

2) I'm interested in buying some small, inexpensive souvenirs but want to shop somewhere like an artisans' collective with prix fixe/set prices. I'm particularly interested in food: ras al hanout, harissa, argan oil, dates/nuts, couscous...and maybe some cool leather slipper type things. Any other products, especially culinary, that I should check out?

Thank you!
posted by mdonley to Travel & Transportation around Morocco (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1. Essaouira is lovely, but it's still really cold now.

2. As a casual tourist, it's going to be difficult for you to find a true "artisan's collective." Moroccans got wise to the value of this kind of marketing ages ago, so now every shop from tiny to megoplex has some kind of ploy like this. Lots of places have set prices, though, I wouldn't worry about that.

Last note - true couscous (seksou to Berbers) is made by hand and perishable, not souvenir material.. The other stuff that comes in bags/packets and is boiled in water, can be found just about anywhere.
posted by HopperFan at 9:59 AM on February 14, 2009

There is a woman's collective in Marrakech that sells argan oil at a fixed price. I cannot remember the name of it but it should easily found in any Lonely Planet book. It is a bit north of Djamma El Fna.

If you want some 'funny' food/snacks, check out a supermarket like Aswad in the new city.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 11:29 AM on February 14, 2009

1. Personally I'd rather have the extra time in Fes than Essaouira, particularly if you're interested in shopping for souvenirs.

2. In my own experience, the "several vendors all selling the same thing under one roof" -style "collective" tend to feel kinda' scammy. Not to mention, the bargaining experience is a lot of fun once you get the feel for it, and not something to miss if you've never had to haggle before.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:38 PM on February 14, 2009

If you can find it, there is a place called Organic Earth Cafe (or some variant on that) in Marrakesh (here is a crappy Trip Advisor link, which is the best I could find at the moment). They have good vegetarian food, but more importantly, they sell olive oil and argan oil and various other olive-derived products locally produced from a smallish olive farm right outside Marrakesh. When I was there on vacation a couple of years ago, the owner was very, very nice and drove a friend and I out to the farm to visit, so I can attest to the legitimacy of their artisan-credentials.
posted by booknerd at 3:59 PM on February 16, 2009

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