Shopping in Morocco: Babouches and Beach Straw Totes


Marrakech has anything and everything you need to decorate your house aesthetically, filling up your senses and kitchen spice jars, upgrading your jewellery collection, cover your boring living room’s pine wood floors or even drinking a glass of afternoon mint tea in a royal Moroccan cup. If I could mute and blind the airline staff, freeze my bank account from lowering the amount of the savings, I could shop them all and bring home to London with me. Since that is not allowed, I still had my fair share of splurging, collected unique, authentic bits and pieces of artworks from Chefchaoen and the Medina in Marrakech from my maiden trip to Morocco. However, unlike Fez or Chefchaouen, it is  difficult to actually see craftsmen at work. Shop owners are more like salesmen not artisans and the best place to shop is where the crafts are actually made, usually in the villages of the countryside. You can find, however, unique items from all over Morocco.

At the inner circle of the Medina Djemma El Fna
At the inner circle of the Medina Jaama El Fna
Shopping in Morocco: Babouches and Beach Straw Totes
A stree-side beach straw basket shop owner strikes a pose

Sea of beach straw totes- sequins, leather, embroidered...take your pick
Sea of beach straw totes- sequins, leather, embroidered…take your pick
Shopping in Morocco: Babouches and Beach Straw Totes
It’s babouches trial time in the souks of Medina

Shopping in Morocco: Babouches and Beach Straw Totes

To find artisans making crafts you have to head to the inner circle of Jaama El Fna square. In the souks there you can see dyed wool hanging and weaving machines spinning away. The dyers are friendly and eager to show you their trade and their wares with no pressure. You may even get to dress up like an authentic Berber. If you have been following this blog, you have seen that I’m kind of posting a series of Shopping in Morocco suggesting my must-have edit and a few handy tips on bargainning while shopping in Morocco. So, today I will share the shoes and bags I have picked up from Morocco.

Babouches

Four pairs of traditional babouches and a pair of slip-on have been added to my shoe closet of 100+ pairs.  This is also the first time I bought a pair of shoes in two colors because they are this comfortable and colorful!

Shopping in Morocco: Babouches and Beach Straw Totes
Colorful soft leather babouches seen in the Medina
Shopping in Morocco: Babouches and Beach Straw Totes
Plain, snake skin print or embroidered- all in display

Shopping in Morocco: Babouches and Beach Straw Totes

The traditional shoes in Morocco are called “babouche”. It means slippers in French. They are little works of art you can put on your feet. Hand-made from scratch, Babouche is pair of comfortable slippers made in leather with different colors, but the traditional ones are just in cream. They finish in a characteristic shape that could be thiner of wider depending on the model. They are both for men and women but it changes the decoration on them. I think the babouches in Marrakech had a larger variety and softer leathers should advice you to have a look in shops that smell to leather, in the case of the babouches, searching for real traditional ones. Please, avoid the plastic in any case.

My Edit No. 1

This pair was so comfortable that it deserved to be in my shoes closet twice- so I bought both the white and turquoise
This pair was so comfortable that it deserved to be in my shoe closet twice- so I bought both the white and turquoise

My Edit No. 2

A perfect pair for lounging
A perfect pair for lounging

My Edit No. 3

Art on your feet
Art on your feet

My Edit No. 4

Soft leather slippers with color-blocked tassels make your steps royal
Soft leather slippers with color-blocked tassels make your steps royal

My Edit No. 5

A pair of slip-ons that compliment your pedicured feet
A pair of slip-ons that compliment your pedicured feet

You can never find the same pair twice, be forewarned!

Where to get: Everywhere! Just find the marketplace or Medina as they call it in the town you are in and start choosing. It takes good understanding of leather to be sure of the quality. Pick the souk with more varieties- because price may vary over the quality of the leather.

What to pay: Don’t forget to bargain!! Well, in Morocco you learn quickly that there is no standard price! Always bargain! Also, the more you buy the less you pay! I believe that anything from GBP 10-15 is rather cheap for such a unique work…

It’s quite easy to get a bargain at the souks in Marrakech if you, like me, have the first hand experience of travelling, living and growing up in Indian Sub-continent. Although this was our first trip to Morocco but I had my thorough research done before we set off, so from day one, I was determined to attempt bargaining. We had very little money which worked in our favour as we had a limit we could not cross in order to avoid paying for excess baggage. My first search was for a few pair of Babouches in good quality leather variety in different patterns and designs. My partner and I were walking around aimlessly and landed at a souk (as they call it) on one of the quieter streets near the edge of the souks in the Medina as I figured fewer tourists came out here and we would have a better chance of a good price.

The guy in the shop wanted 200 Dirham but I explained we had very little money left and offered 50. He laughed at me and said no way but did lower to 180. We stayed a long time examining them but sadly left as I knew he will make it cheaper once I attempt to leave his stall. That’s the bargaining tip I have mastered from my father:) The shop owner could see I was interested and when I walked past his shop again he offered them for 100. We said 60 as we had no money left (a little lie won’t take you to hell! yeah;). He was reluctant to go below 75 but he gave in and eventually accepted 65. To think he wanted 250 originally. I applied the same strategy in other shops and got these 5 pairs from three different souks- all from the Medina.

Top tip: Never buy shoes without trying them on. Marrakech‘s Medina is very chaotic, so shop from the souks in which the souk owner takes interest in showing you different varieties and allowing you to try them on without feeling irritated or losing patience.

Beach Straw Totes / Baskets

I love the look of French market baskets otherwise known as Beach straw totes/ baskets. I have couple of them in my collection. They are just the perfect choice for shopping trips, picnics or days at the beach. The ultimate sustainable product. Not only! They are eco-friendly, they look great in the home for storing toys or magazines, lightweight, strong, ideal for food shopping, a beach bag or weekender. I also like to store throw pillows or blankets or even bathroom accessories like hairdryers and products in them. The straw basket becomes multi-utility design object, decorative and storage.Embroidered Moroccan Beach Basket/Bag- home to my sunscreen and fashion magazines when on the beach

Embroidered Moroccan Beach Basket/Bag- home to my sunscreen and fashion magazines when on the beach

Shopping in Morocco: Babouches & Beach BagsShopping in Morocco: Babouches & Beach Bags

 While wandering around the Medina in various places in Morocco, I saw these colorfully embroidered often embellished with sequins and wool French market baskets. I couldn’t resist to pick one for myself. Who could resist the combination of details, shape, leather, color these beach baskets have to offer; perfect for the new season of Summer beach holidays or even a picnic in the city park moment.

Handwoven by women in Morocco using palm leaf, and crafted in local workshop, this straw bag is both sturdy and flexible. A fine combination of tradition and modernity- defines my personal style in one sentence. All basketry craft connecting the different parts of these french baskets are made with silk of aloe. When asked, the local artisans educated me that it takes about 10 hours for a skilled craftsman to design a straw tote of this quality. All the work of sequin, embroidery, leather work (fringes, handles …) and sewing is done carefully by hand. Everything is handcrafted locally. This is a great traditional work of precision and quality, know-how to protect. This jewel in the crown of my accessories’ shopping-haul from Morocco is going to travel with me on the next beach holiday I’ll be heading out in less than a month:)

Where to get: Markets or as they call it- Medinas in every city or town.

What to pay: Again bargain! They come in different sizes. So the price may vary from size to size. Don’t pay anything more than 70-80 dirhams for a small sized one like I bought. The large one should be something between 100 -120 dirhams.

Happy shopping! 

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