Africa, Senegal, Obama and Black Tina Turner (nobody informed me that Tina Turner wasn’t black anymore), were just a few of the names I was called as I navigated the Souks of Jamaa el Fna. On my third foray into the massive maze-like souk, all I needed to hear was ‘My Wife’ to know I was on the right path. The Souks are not for the timid, shy or claustrophobic ,but being a child of a market trader and haggler, I was prepared with my mental shopping list and a figure of how much I was going to pay for them in total. In the square, a number of stalls offered teas, solid perfumes and Moroccan black soaps in every variety, as well as shelves of jars filled with spices and dyes that will fill the hearts of any kitchen mixologist with joy. A natural girl’s paradise lay within those narrow roads and crowded squares.
Navigating the souks cobbled passages with often confusing signs and shady ‘helpful strangers’ became easier with each visit but now I was on a mission to find the spice shops where I’d previously made ‘friends’ with salesmans, to get my final bits and pieces for my new Moroccan beauty regime. I had to turn into the alley passage where a trader, who on my first expedition into the souk had taken a liking to me and had offered 1000 camels and a Ferrari for my hand in marriage, had become my north star for finding my ‘friend’ salesman.
If you can navigate the cat calls and are prepared to haggle, there’s always gold in those alleys. For hair, a black soap bar is a wondrous treat for a gentle cleansing while teas can be brewed and cooled for a strengthening and refreshing hair and scalp rinse. My personal favorite was the Rhassoul clay, a hair mask that leaves every coil with perfect definition.
A few tips for the brave mixologists:
1. Don’t buy pre-bottled Argan oil. Instead look for the ladies grinding and making it fresh, they may be more expensive but at least it’s pure, where as some pre-bottled Argan oil is mixed with other oils
2. Definitely get the raw, unpackaged teas, spices and soaps they often are cheaper and can be used multiple ways.
3. The loud guy is the one you want. He will get your attention and you can bargain more with him on the price.
4. Haggling is an art form and a science, so become well versed in it.
5. Don’t be afraid to walk away if the price isn’t right.
6. Come prepared and do your research. Ask several traders their prices for their prices of the particular item you require so you can get a good idea of what is a fair then half it. By starting so low you will at least get a 10-20 % discount on the average price.
7. Don’t be afraid to watch them as they weigh your goods to make sure all is as it should be.
8. Humor and a cheerful disposition will get you further than politeness alone.
Happy ingredient hunting!
This story was curated by Agnes.