More to do than just lying on the beach!

Visiting the Souk in Agadir
by JL Farmer

Basic Info
The Arabic name for the Agadir Souk is "Souk El Had" which means "Sunday Souk (market)
The Arab world names its days of the week by numbers - Sunday is "Day 1"
The souk becomes packed out with people every Sunday
The souk is completely closed and gated every Monday
Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday are the best days to visit the souk - less crowded and better bargaining
Friday is prayer day and many of the stalls close around noon for around two to three hours
Big crowds of local people begin to arrive, every day, after around 3.30pm
Petit taxis often become hard to get, on leaving the souk, after around 4pm

The Souk is a very safe place to visit, but someone who is not used to the Arabic way of trading might feel a little overcome by the experience - and maybe pay a lot more for items than what they are actually worth, especially if they adopt one of the unofficial guides at the entrance gates (who will most likely be getting commission from the shop owners, an amount which will always be quietly integrated into the price of the item during the bargaining process, which can sometimes double - or more - the price that is finally paid.)

From my comments on tripadvisor: "Upon arrival a guide may attach himself to you, which can be useful, but on the other hand, he may have arrangements in place with certain sellers which may mean that you may end up paying more for an item than if you would have gone on your own. This "guide" commission system is universal in souks, with a mark up of anything up to around 300%. If you have a degree of confidence, you don't need a guide at all. By going alone, it will give you the opportunity to hone your bargaining skills and get the satisfaction that YOU did it - you bought the item at a reasonable price!

Whenever going to the souk, flag down a petit taxi, say "Salam al Akoum" and the driver should then put the meter on. If he does not, point to it, if he refuses, you can get out and try another taxi. Tell the taxi driver "Bab Hamsa" which means Gate 5 in Arabic. The entrance at Gate 5 will bring you into the souk at the bottom end, where all of the spice and vegetable sellers are. You can then weave your way up to the top of the souk, alley by alley, until you arrive at the top end, which will be Gates 8, 9 or 10."

The Agadir Souk with Gates 5 to 11 marked in red

Saffron and spices, babouche slippers, alabaster items, thuya wood, leather goods and much more - all available. The group leaders speak English, French and Arabic and they can help you to buy items in the souk at the lowest prices - and they don't make commission.

The Souk in Agadir is open every day of the week, except Mondays. Being the Sunday market means that this is the busiest day of the week to visit and after 3pm it gets really crowded with people.

If you like walking, it will take you about half an hour to walk to the Souk from Talborjt at a steady pace, or you can take a petit taxi. From Talborjt, the taxi fare will be around 8 or 9 dirhams, on the meter. If you remember to say "Salam al Akoum" to the taxi driver, he will most likely reach down and put the meter on for you.

The Souk is a large walled area that has twelve gates of entry. Most tourists enter the Souk at Gate 10 (Arabic: Bab Eshera) and this is where most of the guides hang out, hoping to be able to escort tourists around the souk. Most of the tourist shops are located inside of Gate 8 and Gate 9.

Taking a Guide

If you take a guide - whether officially or unofficially - be aware that they will be making commission on everything that you will purchase and will likely direct you into shops where they have an arrangement with the owner. This is fine, as long as you don't mind, but you will most likely be paying over-the-odds for your purchases (sometimes 200-300% more) and you may not get the prices down to a level that you would like, had you gone into the souk without a guide (or without being on our group visit!)
You will also not be able to relax so much. The guide will not want to be relaxed, hang out and talk too much. Yes, they may talk somewhat about the souk in general, but their main aim will be to get you inside of the shops. They will also likely expect you to pay for refreshments (in addition to the guide fee) if you sit down somewhere, they may begin to tell you some hard-luck stories in order to elicit your sympathy (and generosity.) On another note... the guide is just trying to make a living for their family and many people in Morocco are quite poor, so "giving in moderation" is the key phrase, in this context.

How much to pay a guide?

50 dirhams for two hours is what a traveller might pay for a guide, with a little bargaining involved. Tourists might like to pay 100 dirhams for two hours. Very rich tourists might like to pay 200 dirhams.
Check the time when the visit begins and be sure to pay AFTER the visit ends, not upfront.

Ceramics seller in the Souk

A good idea is to enter the Souk at Gate 5 (Arabic: Bab Hamsa.) If you travel by petit taxi your may like to tell the driver "Souk Al Had, Bab Hamsa min fadlak" - he will likely be very impressed!) Your point of arrival will be at the bottom end of the souk, where all of the spices and vegetables are located, along with all of the ceramic goods, such as tajine pots and lots of pretty basketry items. From here, you can slowly walk your way up along the alleys until you reach the top end, where you can exit at Gate 10 (where all the petit taxis are waiting.)

Buying Saffron in the Souk of Agadir

Top grade saffron

A lot of tourists like to visit the Souk to buy spices - and especially saffron. (wiki). These days (2016), one should be able to buy saffron for around 25 to 30 dirhams a gramme. In the local markets in central Agadir, sellers usually ask around 40 dirhams a gramme and often will not give any discount for purchasing quantity.

Saffron of best quality is a deep, dark red colour (as shown above) whereas second and third grade saffron is more of an orangey-red colour (as shown below) and costs much less to buy. So, if one has not already done so, it's a good idea to study-up beforehand on the subject if you have not previously purchased saffron and intend to buy any kind of quantity as the price differential between the different grades is substantial.

Low grade saffron

Trade and use of saffron: "Saffron has been a key seasoning, fragrance, dye, and medicine for over three millennia. One of the world's most expensive spices by weight, saffron consists of stigmas plucked from the vegetatively propagated and sterile Crocus sativus, known popularly as the saffron crocus. The resulting dried "threads" are distinguished by their bitter taste, hay-like fragrance, and slight metallic notes." The best saffron in Morocco comes from the Telouine region, east of Taroudant. See also "History of saffron."

Spice seller in the Souk of Agadir

Enter the souk at Gate 5, walk down to the first street, turn left then turn right at first junction. Walk down around 100 metres until you see the large spice stall on the right hand side of the street. If you buy ten grammes or more, offer to pay 20 dirhams a gramme. It can be done - maybe drink mint tea and chat first. Maybe tell them that the people who have the Talborjt web site recommended his stall. That should do it.

Feature articles: "Morocco's Threads of Red Gold"
     "Saffron Nutrition Facts"     BBC: "Saffron Recipes"

Date seller in the Souk

The vegetable market in the Agadir Souk is surely one of the best I have ever seen. It is pure pleasure to walk around the different isles, sampling the pungent aroma of a multitude of fresh herbs and being dazzled by so many wonderful colours of fruit and vegetables. This is also the place to buy dates and figs, if you like them.

There are many second-hand clothing stalls in the centre of the souk and it's often possible to find Italian designer shoes and clothes amongst the stalls, if you're up for searching in this manner.

Taking home a lovely hand-carved Moroccan Cabinet

As you weave your way up towards the top end of the souk, there are furniture shops (near the bottom end of Gate 11) selling quality second-hand furniture. This is the area where many European residents come to purchase items for their home. Moroccan, carved and decorated wooden cabinets, European pine - there are many nice pieces around here. This is also the area of the souk that sells used books - and especially books in English, which are quite hard to find in Morocco, except in certain known places. We can find books in French all over Morocco, but finding them in English is another matter altogether. It's such a great feeling to find a special piece of furniture for the home, or some new and interesting books and take them home at the end of the day.

The Souk really is a must-visit place in Agadir and I am sure you will enjoy your visit there. Have fun!

Some side tales

Side tale 1: A person we know of arrived by plane on a tourist package holiday, after a tiring journey with flight delay. They were staying in a 3* tourist hotel down by the seafront and gave the luggage carrier a tip for carrying the luggage up to the room. The man was thrilled and hugged and kissed this person on both cheeks. Being quite tired, the person thought that they had given the man a 50 dirham banknote. They later discovered that they had given him a 50 Euro banknote.

Side tale 2: A tourist we know of was bargaining for three small pieces of jewellery - the kind that one might see lots of hung across huge boards in the souk, selling for maybe 15 or 20 dirhams a piece. The tourist said that they wanted to bargain and pay in dirhams but the seller told them that he only accepted payment in UK or Euros. The tourist acquiesced to his comments and ended up paying UK25 for what should have cost no more than around 60 dirhams. Here is an excellent response to remember when a seller says that they only accept s or Euros: "Well that's a pity, because you just lost the sale." Then walk away, never to return - not even if he comes running and calling after you. The same items are most likely available elsewhere.

Side tale 3: We once took a three hour felucca Nile trip to Banana Island, near Luxor, Egypt. The captain said two or three times during the trip that he would make tea for us. But he never did - and we didn't remind him. Lucky that we always carry a large bottle of mineral water with us whenever we go out. When the trip finished and we were leaving the felucca, the captain asked us for a tip. We said "a tip? OK, next time, make the tea, like you promised." Good tip, eh? It's up to us to get the point across to some of these people.

Side tale 4: We were at the outdoor food market in Sidi Ifni and happened to see a large tin of pears on a stall. Yum. The seller said they cost 22 dirhams. Mmh. Expensive, but I so wanted them, so we bought them and ate them during the afternoon siesta, back at the hotel. Later that day, around 7pm, we were back in the same market and the seller saw us, came running out and said that he had made a mistake and that the real price was 28 dirhams. "Too late," we said "They're gone!!!"

Side tale 5: I was once in the indoor souk near the Grand Socco in Tangier when inside a bric-a-brac shop I found an old 9ct red gold Victorian English charm bracelet (no charms, just the bracelet.) I told the seller (a guy around 35 years old) that I didn't have a lot of cash with me, but if we could agree a price, I could return next morning to complete the purchase. I managed to get the price down to 600 dirhams and said I would return next morning with the money. I was really pleased with the price as I know such an item in the UK would cost a lot more than that. Next day I returned and bought the bracelet. Around three or four days later, I was walking once again in this market. The guy who had sold me the bracelet said that his elder brother (who was around 50 years old) was angry at the low price and that he would not accept it. I told him that that was too bad because I had bought the bracelet and it was now my property. The elder brother was in the shop, overheard the conversation, came outside and said to me "when the real owner finds out about this, there will be trouble." So then, it appears that he was selling the bracelet for a third party. I didn't say anything, but I didn't like the word "trouble" so I went outside and straight into the police station next door. I told the police what had happened and the policeman told me to accompany him into the souk and point out the shopkeeper concerned. The cop told the elder brother to close up the shop and for the younger brother to accompany him to the police station. We all waited and around five minutes later the elder brother arrived and began pleading with the cop to make him ask me for more money. I said to the cop "I bought this gold bracelet a few days ago and paid for it, so it is my property now, is it not?" "Absolutely" the cop said and began to get angry with the two sellers for trying to get me to pay more money after the sale had completed. Fortunately for the sellers, they were not arrested but going by the cop's angry speech, I would say that the two brothers got a very stern telling-off and warning from the policeman to not ever try this again in future.

Motto of story: Never be intimidated. If you are 100% certain that you are correct in any matter then stand your ground. Many tourists get ripped-off by scam sellers because they feel intimidated and don't want to enter into what they think might become an unpleasant situation.

Here are some more of our pages:

Interesting Articles on Morocco
Where is Talborjt?

Security in Morocco

The Hammam in Talborjt
DIY Trip to Taroudant

DIY Trip to Marrakesh

From Agadir to Merzouga: A Twelve Day Journey

General Info on Agadir and Morocco

Hotels in Talborjt

Talborjt 1001 Nights Restaurant

Tourism in Agadir

Remembering the 1960 Agadir Earthquake

Transport to and from Agadir

The Jardim Olhao and Valley of the Birds

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