Whenever there is no surf in Taghazout, a trip to the famous Souk El Had in Agadir is a good idea (except for Monday when it is closed). It’s a perfect experience because you will not only get the chance to shop until you drop but also learn to do it the Moroccan way. You better learn quickly though if you don’t want to be THAT tourist who got completely ripped off. Luckily you have this little guide here to take you through the basics.
Let’s start with transport. Normally Surf Camp Taghazout offers a trip to the souk every Wednesday and sometimes Kamal will be nice enough to organize another trip during the weekend (although you have to ask him really nicely and maybe bribe with some cookies). On any other day you can take one of the countless taxis in Taghazout. Ask Hamid to organize one for you (he will give you “a really good price my friend”).
Now, how to dress: if you want to keep your little hot pants on and walk around in a sleeveless shirt, that’s totally fine. You’ll make it really easy for all the locals to identify you as a proper tourist and give them the opportunity to make up new fantasy prices for all their awesome products in no time. But if you want to have an authentic experience with close to authentic prices (cause let’s be honest, as you are not Moroccan they will always charge you a bit more) you need to put one some clothes. This means long pants and definitely something with sleeves for ladies and gentlemen.
Once you have survived the craziness of Agadir’s traffic it is like Alice in Wonderland: 11 doors lead into the madness, you just gotta pick one. Door 2 and 9 are usually a good choice, one leads you directly into the fruit and veggie market and the other puts you straight into the paradise of jewelry. If you are going with the camp they’ll most likely drop you off at door 2. Once inside, most people find it very overwhelming and it is almost impossible to keep track of where you came from. This is why it is very tempting to accept the offer of the many Moroccans lurking at the entrances proposing to be your “guide”. DON’T! These guides, even though they claim to be “official guides” work together with their sleazy friends and will drag you to their stores, force feed you tea and make you buy their things at an outrageous price. This is why it it crucial to say NO, and you have to say this very firmly, in order to have a great experience at the souk.
Take a few hours and just dive in. You can buy just about everything here, from peanuts to bracelets to cell phones to fridges. The ground rule is: BARTER! To get an idea of what things should cost, it is best to talk to one of the Moroccans at the camp before you head to the souk. They will give you a good idea of how much the things you want to buy should be.
It basically works like this: while you are making your way through the countless shops, salesmen will be yelling out their offers to you. They’ll shout things like “Spices, spices, you want spices? I have very good price my friend, very good price! Come to my shop, come to my shop!”. (For some reasons Moroccans think that’s all we want, the famous spices). It is up to you if you want to go inside a shop or not, but if you don’t, IGNORE them and keep walking! It is always good to have a look around where the locals are buying and keep an eye on how much they are paying for their things.
Once you decided to have a look into a shop you might be offered some tea. Moroccans are famous for their hospitality and it is a great experience to have a tea with them but remember that they will expect you to buy something after you had it, and if you leave without buying something it will be considered rude. This is why you have to pick the shops you want to go in very carefully (one can only drink so much tea). To get the best deal in a shop you have to bring TIME. The more time you have, the lower the price will be. Bartering is an art itself and you have to be persistent, persuasive, and patient. Two good lines are, “Another shop offered me the same thing for half the price” and “my Moroccan friend Kamal said it should only be this much”. Confidence is the key. If the salesman gets the impression that you have done your math and are not just a dumb and insecure tourist, you will be treated with more fairness and will more likely get a better price. Remember to think about how much you would pay for the same thing in your country (would you pay 15€ for three packs of tea?). It is also helpful to learn how to say hello, thank you, and goodbye in Berber or Arabic, as it will show you’re not an ignorant tourist and will earn you some respect (for a language crash course ask one of the guys in the camp). Nevertheless, if a salesman sticks to a ridiculously high price, you can leave even if you had tea. You might endure being insulted on your way out but don’t worry, a much better shop will be just around the corner.
Now, the things you can’t possibly miss while you are there:
Buy some argan oil! Agadir’s best export product is world famous for it’s amazing benefits. It is just supergood for your body inside and out. You can use it for cooking, as a hair treatment or for all those wrinkles you get from the sun. Moroccans swear by it and it is becoming more and more popular around the world! But again, watch out because some shops sell fake argan oil. Keep an eye on the locals and where they get their goodies from. It is also great to watch some ladies professionally making the oil in the shop so if you have five minutes take a look!
The other great thing is amlou, a Moroccan version of Nutella, made out of almonds, honey and argan oil. You will find stands everywhere selling this addictive spread and many of them will offer you a tasting.
For the ladies among us, go nuts on the amazing jewelry which is offered! There are colorful bracelets and necklaces everywhere, perfect for that cute hippie look! More fancy ladies can also get great deals on real gold and silver. To make sure that you are getting the real thing you have to go to one of the authorized jewelry stores near door 9 which have set prices for grams of gold or silver. Always ask for a silver and gold test to assure that it’s real. You can also barter!
Another must buy are some leather goods. You can get amazing leather shoes and bags with beautifully traditional patterns on them in one of the leather shops. They are definitely a great and original souvenir to bring home!
Other than that, the souk is full with awesome oriental things – candles, mirrors, tanjines, lamps, and much much more. You just gotta see how much stuff you can bring back on the plane and take your wallet on a shopping rage.
Finally, indulge in foods. Nuts, pastries, olives, fruit and veggies, everything is better and cheaper in Morocco! Get some of those delicious strawberries, have a box of the sweet sweet cookies and make sure to get a few juicy oranges! Hell yeah, even buy some of those spices! Especially Safran is a good buy but be careful, a too good to be true price can indicate that it’s a fake (again, watch those locals).
Once you are done with your shopping spree, you will be exhausted. Bartering sucks all the energy out of any non-Moroccan. That’s why you need to finish your experience in the amazing fruit bar in the souk which has a secret rooftop terrace and relax with an avocado smoothie and a sandwich while enjoying the view of Agadir (for directions ask Kamal).
And then it is time to go back to Taghazout, that is if you find your way back first. Ask around and let the friendly Moroccans point the way out to you. Don’t forget to do a booze run at Marjane on your way back, and buy some chocolate for Naima and Fatima, cause, you know, they are awesome!
Let us know how you went in the comments:)
your Surf Camp Taghazout