The layout of Souk El Had
A large souk with around 6000 stalls, Souk El Had is surprisingly easy to navigate when compared with many sprawling souks around Morocco. Twelve gates lead into the souk, and clear numbering makes it easy to arrange a meeting point and get your bearings. The crowds and chaos can, however, make some people feel overwhelmed; if that is the case, simply walk in one direction until you come to an outer gate. You can then walk around the outer walls to get to where you want to be, or catch a taxi if you don’t want to walk. The stalls are grouped in a fairly well-organised manner, meaning that you can head straight to a particular gate if there are certain items that you are interested in buying.
Things to buy in Souk El Had
Vendors sell an assortment of traditional Moroccan items, such as clothing, footwear, pottery, rugs, crafts, and musical instruments, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, and everyday household goods. You’ll find almost anything you can think of here, from food, toiletries, and cleaning products to home furnishings, electronics, jewellery, and handicrafts.
Local products include argan oil, made from the fruit of the argan tree and often referred to as Morocco’s liquid gold, and a food product called amlou, a dip made using argan oil and almonds. One of Morocco’s best saffron-growing areas is reasonably close to Agadir, in the Telouine region, and so it is possible to find high-quality saffron at Souk El Had.
Many fresh produce and spice sellers can be found near Gate 5. Pottery, such as tagine pots, and basket work are also in this part of the souk. If you’re looking for bags, leather goods, and accessories, head to Gate 6.
Gates 8 and 9 have the majority of tourist-orientated goods, such as souvenirs and knickknacks. Gate 9 is also known for its many jewellery stalls, with some authorised stores selling genuine gold and silver. Furniture is located near Gate 11, with many new and second-hand pieces available. Many items are hand-crafted from wood. Booksellers can also be found close to Gate 11.
When to visit Souk El Had
The large market is open from 6am to 8.30pm every day of the week except Monday. On Mondays, the souk is closed for cleaning. Many stalls close for a few hours on Friday afternoons so that sellers can attend afternoon prayers on the Islamic holy day. The souk’s name means the Sunday Souk, so it is little surprise that Sunday is the busiest day of the week. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are considered the best days for a visit. There are smaller crowds and this leads to a greater chance of being able to bargain for lower prices. Mornings are quieter, although not all stalls will be open for business. Most sellers are in full swing by mid-afternoon, but this is also when the market is at its busiest.
A good way to explore the market is to enter at Gate 5, at the bottom, and browse the colourful fruits, vegetables, spices, olives, and kitchenware before throwing yourself into the souk’s frenzy and winding your way through the rows of stalls for a few hours to finally exit at the top, around Gates 8, 9, or 10. This is in reverse to many tourists, who often enter the market at the top, close to the tourist shops.
Gate 10 has a particularly large number of unofficial guides lurking, waiting to make a quick buck of visitors. You really don’t need a guide but if do plan to hire one and prefer that a local accompany you through the mêlée, be sure to negotiate the price upfront for their services. Pay the guide, though, at the end of the visit. Anywhere between 50 and 100 dirhams is a reasonable price for a two-hour souk tour. Also keep in mind that they will likely lead you to stalls where they can make a decent commission. Most guides earn at least a little commission from any sale at any stall, so do remember that prices will be inflated to include that.
Unless prices are clearly marked, haggling is essential! Keep things lighthearted and fun while trying to reach an acceptable price to both parties. If you cannot agree on a final sum, you are under no obligation to buy. Don’t, however, begin haggling if you have no intention to buy. Keep in mind that accepting an offer of mint tea is generally seen as a sign that you will make a purchase.
While beach clothes are fine for the beach, cover up with some more modest attire for a visit to the souk. Not only will this attract less attention (though you’ll still absolutely stand out as a foreigner!) but it is also more respectful to local sensibilities.
Ask before taking pictures of locals – it’s just good manners!
Places to take a break
There is a dedicated area of the souk for meals and drinks where you can rest your weary feet and satisfy your appetite. Seafood, quick snacks like sandwiches, meat brochettes, and pizzas, and traditional Moroccan dishes are available. There’s a particularly charming café near Gate 6; head up to the roof terrace for terrific views over the souk’s hustle and bustle and the wider area. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and snack shops outside the souk’s walls too. Pop your head out of any of the gates and see if any local establishments catch your eye.
There’s no charge to enter the souk and look around. Plan to spend at least a couple of hours browsing and buying.
The privately built Agadir Medina is another great place for shopping in Agadir. While Agadir’s shopping places may not have quite the same character and atmosphere as the famous souks of, for example, Marrakech and Fez, you can still find an extensive array of products and perfect your haggling prowess.