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Tuesday, 16 September 2014 12:00 AM

Watch Out On Holiday - Buying Moroccan Goods

Morocco is no different from any other holiday destination, be it Paris, London or New York, there are local scams that can catch an unsuspecting holiday maker but, with a little local knowledge, you have no reason to be worried.

Naturally Morocco will ensure that the fundamental parts of your holiday fit together seamlessly – from transfer to and from airport and your stay in your riads and other boutique accommodation – but, unless you are with one of our guides, whilst you explore Morocco you are left to your own devices (haggling with a store holder can truly part of the fun).

Just watch out for a few local scams, they are very unlikely to cost you an arm and a leg but they can be irritating.

Buying Moroccan Goods - Argan Oil, Henna Tattoos or Saffron

There are some extraordinary things to buy in Morocco, from carpets to spices, and the haggling process is all part of the experience and in general it is for you to consider the quality of the products before you start your negotiations. However, there are a few specific items to watch out for.

Argan oil, made through a painstaking manual process from the argan nut found mainly in the southern parts of Morocco, is widely acclaimed by cooking enthusiasts as a wonderful healthy and flavoured oil and, as such, is tempting to buy whilst in Morocco. You will see small bottles of argan oil for sale in almost every medina near the spice pyramids and, naturally, the stall holder will state that it is pure argan oil – but beware. Argan oil is expensive, even in Morocco, and its expense means that it is tempting for people to label other oils as argan or to water it down with another product. Unless you really know you stuff the best places to buy argan oil are the women’s cooperatives that make the oil, or ask the help of your guide or riad, otherwise just cross your fingers and hope.

Henna tattoos are a different issue. Tattoos are becoming more popular and the temptation for a henna tattoo whilst in Morocco can be great – a dark brown (sometimes almost black) “ink” drawn with a special pen onto (normally) the backs of hands which, once dry, will last for a week or more. Unfortunately it has been known for inferior henna “ink” to be used that can irritate the skin. It may not be fundamental but if concerned about the artists on the streets then take the advice of your riad or, if in Marrakech, go to the henna Café.

Saffron, the rarest of spices which is reported to cost more than gold by weight, is grown and harvested in certain parts of Morocco south of Marrakech. You may see saffron advertised in spice shops but, if you do not know what saffron looks like (the stamen of a small flower) be careful. In addition to the translation issue – whereby products labelled as “saffron” are not the saffron we are talking about – even in Morocco saffron is expensive, hence be careful when buying it.