Monday, November 19, 2012

When in Morocco, buy real leather!

Moroccan leather shoes

Curtains of colorful leather footwear such as these are a common sight at patios of stores at Morocco's bustling souk or marketplaces. What catches the fancy of tourists to this traditional Moroccan shoes are the colors, as these come in vivid hues of deep red, bright tangerine, lemon or mustard yellow, or even brighter shades of aquamarine or sky blue. Fellow travelers I've met during my visit to Morocco in Summer of 2010 said Moroccans -- if not all desert-dwellers in North Africa and other Arab states -- are clad in bold-colored garbs in order to make them much more visible in the middle of the desert. A sea of Moroccans in their traditional clothing, even when not in the desert, indeed makes for a post card-perfect picture!

Of course, these shoes also come with adornments such as metallic threads, tassels and printed or embossed patterns that would remind anyone of Arab culture. And what about those pointed shoes just like the genie's in Aladdin? They have one like that!

For the movie buffs, yes, these are the same shoes that Carrie Bradshaw bought for her friends when the shopkeeper took care of her passport at the second installment of the movie Sex and the City. (And yes, Sex and the City 2 was shot in Marrakech and not in Abu Dhabi as indicated in the movie!)

But while these shoes are easily available in souks of Marrakech or Essaouira, they come at a price. A mere touch of these shoes even by someone not knowledgeable on leathercraft -- is this calf skin or camel's? -- would really be convinced that yes, these are the authentic and not the cheap stuff. A pair would cost about 100 euros or even more!

Though these are pretty, I didn't bother getting a pair. Being a guy, wearing such would warrant raised eyebrows and weird glances while walking inside Manila's malls!

But shoes aren't the only leatherware sold in Morocco. I bought two cute leather coin purses for my mom and a friend, which cost about 5 euros each after haggling with storekeepers. (It's a minor feat for me since I don't actually know how to haggle even if I came from a country where tawad or the practice of asking for discounts when shopping is very common.)

I also bought a leather messenger bag -- which, modesty aside, is probably the "souvenir" that I bought that has garnered the most critical acclaim (yes!). This was originally price-tagged at 500 Moroccan dirhams and sold at 200, also after a lot of haggling! Sure, this bag is not as finely crafted as those in Cordoba or in Granada, Spain, but with this kind of leather sold for only about P1,200 and cannot be found anywhere in the Philippines, it's a steal!

But in hind sight, I thought the shoes are too good to forego, and so I just contented myself (and my lucky friends who eventually received theirs) with small but cheap key chains, which was purchased at a buy-10-take-2 deal after insistent haggling!

Moroccan shoes souvenir
Souvenirs such as keychains that look like Moroccan shoes are sold cheaply in the souk or market in Morocco.
I just hope Filipinos aren't banned in the souks of Morocco after this series of haggling. After all, Moroccans I've encountered thought I was Malaysian, if not Korean. ;-)

Tip sheet:

- When roaming inside the souk, be aware that Moroccans are touts that would really convince you to death to check out their stuff and \force you to buy. Touching their goods or even just throwing a mere glance at the merchandise or the store itself would all the more make those shopkeepers come to you. However, there are a also a lot of good ones that would even invite you for thé à la menthe  (Moroccan mint tea) after a sale.

- The souk especially the one in Marrakech can be a maze difficult to meander about even if you have in-born, built-in GPS like myself. When roaming inside the souk, NEVER accept help from anyone. A teenage boy approached me and told me he would help me get out of the souk, only to be asked for money later on after bringing me to a farther portion of the souk! What did I do? I didn't give him any bill but he got all the coins I have in my shirt pocket!

- If you will base yourself in Marrakech and you decide to have a day tour to Essaouira (like I did), I think it's better to do the shopping in Marrakech. Sure, the medina (walled city) of Essaouira is cute, but shopping-wise there are far more choices in Marrakech, and it's cheaper too.

- when buying stuff at the souk, don't be afraid to haggle. Storekeepers would even run after you to give you the price that you want, of course while smirking in dismay. ;-)


Anonymous said...

what? 100 euros for those leather slippers? that's like 1000 dirhams. I only paid 65dh for a pair

Gerard dela Pena said...

I found out just recently that there are a lot of rip offs in Morocco, particularly in Marrakech. These leather foot wear aren't exceptions. Good thing you found something cheaper Will make that my next post.

Nino Almendra said...

Nice read. I would definitely read it again whenever I got a chance to visit Morocco. Never knew they got good leather. So kind of you to share some Tips on how to survive the Moroccan Souk. I just wish you can share more photos of your adventures.
All the best. -nino