Dar Charkia owner Lisa May has spent years traversing the souks and streets of Marrakech for the best, from baskets and bath products to caftans and carpets. She offers up her expertise in the form of half-day, one-on-one guided shopping tours, complete with a plotted map (which includes everything from shops and restaurants to where to find clean toilets) and bargains you aren't likely to get on your own. Tours (£55 guests, £65 nonguests) can be booked through the dar.
Start: Café-Restaurant Argana, north side of Jemaa el Fna.
Finish: Villa Savinio, palmeraie.
Time: All day.
Best Times: Start late morning, around 10:30am.
Worst Times: Midday in summer when heat is at its highest and shopkeepers in Guéliz often close for a few hours.
1. Get Oriented (and Caffeinated) at Café-Restaurant Argana
Start with a nuss nuss (local espresso with frothy milk) and croissant (picked up from the Patisserie des Princes on rue des Princes) while overlooking the scene on the square.
Go to the ATM, in the little square behind the cafe, right next to the pharmacie with the green sign. After walking past the pharmacie, on the left-hand side you find yourself in a covered area. The first major archway on the left has the sign SOUK or RUE SEMMARINE. Go through the archway, and about 10m (33 ft.) on the left you will see:
2. Tafilalet Creation
These are the best jewelers in the souk. The designs, made with a colorful array of loose, authentic stones, are original, and they can make new pieces or alter existing pieces to your liking (unlike those in the souk who simply sell jewelry, these are actual jewelers). The owners, brothers Omar and Hamza, are utterly honest and lovely, and the shop is named after the area their family comes from. What you'll spend: 370dh for earrings in semiprecious stones; around 1,225dh to 1,470dh for a cocktail ring; and around 1,715dh for a necklace.
Walk about 10m (33 ft.) on the opposite side of the alley from Tafilalet. You will see two big gold doors with men sitting on stools outside. This is:
3. Aux Merveilles de Marrakech
This is my favorite carpet store. It was a beautiful old house, and the first room was once a courtyard garden. My favorite salesman here is Driss, who speaks a myriad of languages. He has a great range of carpets from various parts of the Atlas, but make sure you say you are not interested in old or antique carpets unless you want a long story. They ship to clients around the world and can even deliver to your riad so you don't need to carry it around the souks. What you'll spend: no more than 2,940dh for a 1.6X2m (5 1/4X6 1/2-ft.) wool carpet. Expect to pay around one-third the asking price.
Continue down Souk Semmarine, and on the same side as the carpet shop you come to:
4. Sabra Mode
Here you can get fabulous throws, scarves, and cushion covers. Find embroidered pieces, which can be used for wall hangings, and curtains from India. Ask for Adil. What you'll spend: double-bed silk and synthetic throws from 300dh; embroidered pieces 350dh; cushion covers 40dh.
Continue to the Teinturiers neighborhood. Next to the Méditel shop is:
5. Chez Lamine
This is the shop of my fantastic tadelakt man. He loves what he does, and it shows. His pieces -- tinted, painted cement ornaments -- are rich in color, and he is always trying new shapes and color combinations. He's happy to deliver to your riad, too. What you'll spend: medium pots with tasseled lids 300dh, large 600dh; small pieces for nuts and olives around 100dh.
From Chez Lamine, follow the road down the incline and through the archway. You will find yourself in an open area with a big building on one side and a few touristy shops on the other. At the end of this little area, turn left down the Rue Mouassine and double back on yourself, passing Cafe Arabe on your right as you walk. You come to a dilapidated archway with the road name Rue du Mouassine. Turn right here, and you will come to a part of the street with wicker light fittings hanging overhead. To the right of these you will see a large double-door entry with SOUK CHERIFA written clearly above the doors. Walk through the doorway, and you will find yourself in a courtyard with lots of little shops. Look toward the sky and you will see clearly a sign for:
Take a Break -- Terrasses des Epices's chill rooftop lounge is the perfect place to escape the madness of the souks (misters cool you on hot days). The light menu is a fusion of Moroccan and international; try the poulet marine au fine herbes (chicken marinated in herbs), a Caesar salad, or the apple compote with chocolate mousse. Note: No alcohol or credit cards.
From Terrasses des Epices, turn left out of Souk Cherifa and walk along the road Dar el Bacha, passing Dar Donab hotel on your left a few hundred meters on. You will ultimately find yourself in front of the Dar el Bacha palace from where you can hail a petit taxi. This walk takes no more than 6 minutes or so. Take a petit taxi for 10dh to 20dh to the corner of rue Mauritanie and av. Mohamed V, in Guéliz. Go right on rue Mauritanie to rue Tarik be Ziad. Here you will find:
6. Maison Zahra
They do a lot of hand-embroidered pieces at more reasonable prices than some of the other linen shops in Guéliz. What you'll spend: large bath sheets 800dh, hand-embroidered cushions 300dh and up, hand-embroidered tissue box covers around 80dh.
Turn right out of Maison Zahra, and make a right on av. Mohammed V onto rue de la Liberte, and pass the Atika shoe shop about 20m (65 ft.) down on the left of rue de la Liberte. Just past Atika you come to a NO ENTRY sign by a left-hand turn called rue du vieux Marrakchi. Here you will find:
7. Michèle Baconnier
This is my favorite shop in the modern town, selling upmarket slippers, caftans, homeware, and costume jewelry. She often has lovely, edgy slippers, and occasionally you will find embroidered boots. Her prices are European prices, but the quality of her stuff is great. What you'll spend: around 980dh to 1,225dh for a caftan; 370dh for a necklace; and from 185dh for earrings.
Duck into the pricey interior shop Moor on the same street to get ideas for caftans and interiors that you can get made cheaper in the souks before meeting your arranged car transfer to:
8. Villa Savinio
Wash away the day at this palmeraie riad. For 500dh, enjoy lunch, hammam and gommage (exfoliation), a massage, and the day to swim in the villa's rose garden pool. The ambience and decor are what one would expect from a Lotus Group property (quirky, luxurious, and stylish). Prearrange your pickup with Villa Savinio (firstname.lastname@example.org); when you're ready, the villa will drop you back at your riad.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.