These guys are pros. They sit you down with a little mint tea, unfurl some of the merchandise. No obligation to buy, just a little discourse on Moroccon rugs. Learn to tell the quality from the inferior. Learn about the knots. Marvel at the twenty foot by 16 foot rugs that take a Moroccon woman a year of daily labor to produce. The merchants just want to help the visitor so they will not get taken advantage of by the less honorable rug hustlers.
Rug after rug is laid out. Each more beautiful than the last. Just look. Just admire. Don't feel you need to buy.
If you don't want to buy, don't inquire as to a price. Don't admire a single one of the rugs. Because once they engage you in dialogue it is all over.
"How much would a rug like this be," I asked. That was it. Game over. "How much do you want to pay," the merchant answered. Needless to say, I walked out with two rugs. Beautiful rugs. High quality rugs. But my wallet was much lighter.
What to buy: Rugs, of course.
What to pay: Depends on the quality, the size and your bargaining powers.
As in many shops in Fès - Medina, the location is in the coldest room of the building - this means- in the cellar. So watch your step.
First an introduction by the owner of the shop
and then ...an attack of vendors
"Mister, where are you from...
what would you like to buy? Will make special price"
What to pay: At least up to 50% of the indicated price.
Just take your time.
A huge one - with several leather products from belts to shoes and jackets - and a perfect view on the local production area.
Picture taken by a member of the group - so funny scénary
What to buy: Whatever you like as leather product - in the color you like
What to pay: Less than on European markets
What makes it so special, asks the tip builder. You can't escape it, that's what makes it special: so eager is Fes to sell you a carpet that the pitch starts before you even get there. I was buttonholed by a tout on the train from Tangier!
Now, being a visual person I am a sucker for beautiful things, and, no mistake, the best of the carpets are exquisite. I am also shameless. If someone wants to spend an afternoon plying me with mint tea and showing me beautiful things in a fine old Moroccan townhouse, fine by me. I said eight times that I didn't want a carpet, and what I say eight times is true. And I'm not in a hurry, I have all afternoon. And if you're not staying in an upmarket riad, this may be the only way to get to see Moroccan domestic architecture from the inside. (and, as with most Moslem architecture, the interior is all: exteriors tend to be unrevealing. The architectural fascination of Fes is the accumulation, the big scheme) But the carpets are beautiful and these are master salesmen, they can tell when something really appeals to you, they read your taste, and soon the floor is three deep in carpets, all lovely, and it begins to look like the the question is not 'Do I want a carpet?' so much as 'Which carpet do I want'
Reader, I bought one. And despite hard bargaining, I'm sure I paid too much for it... but as the salesman said to me, 'Money is nothing, but you will have this carpet fr the rest of your life and it will always bring back memories of Morocco'
As all the guide books say Don't let your guide (if you have one) lead you into a carpet shop. Firstly, you don't need a guide to find one. Quite the reverse. You need a chaperone to avoid them.
Secondly, it may be his uncle's shop, but I suspect they have a very fluid concept of what 'uncle' means.
And thirdly, you'll simply be paying more. The guide gets a cut, and that goes onto what you pay.
What to buy: I've covered basic bargaining etiquette and technique here elsewhere. Link is written about Cairo, but the rules are the same.
Wandering through Fes El Bali you'd think you could buy anything there. But one thing you can't buy is a decent fez. Not that I have a burning desire to look like Tommy Cooper, but I thought it might make a nice souvenir for my children. No luck. The only ones I saw were flimsy affairs, made in China. Absolutely not the genuine article.
If you want to get a fez, I'm afraid you'll have to go to Cairo, where there are a couple of fezmakers in the Khan-el-Khalil area.
After having spent the best part of the day in the medina, it was a pleasure visiting this clean, modern leather shop.
From my journal:
'After the medina we visited a leather shop. The goods are lovely, but I think they are expensive. My mother buys a leather jacket though, and it does fit her very well.'
For those people who do not like the hassle of bargaining in a crowded medina, the hotel shop provides a quiet, relaxing altarnative.
What to buy: I was so taken with the goods on sale in the hotel shop - and the prices - that I bought many items for myself and as gifts fro friends. I espcially liked their silver in traditonal designs.
From my journal:
'In the brass quarter are some great souvenir shops which sold many beautifully crafted pieces from tiny little ornaments to larger plates. We don't buy anything ourselves, but many other people do.'
A lot to see - prices are labeled and the owner is telling that especially for you
"THERE IS A SPECIAL PRICE"
What to buy: What ever you like
What to pay: Cash or credit card