Souk It To Me!
Exclusive Resorts’ Co-Chairman of the Board, Philippe Bourguignon, reveals the magic of Marrakech.
Marrakech ranks among the great shopping cities of the world. Divided into the medina (the old town) and Guéliz (the Ville Nouvelle or new town), the exotic city is home to master craftsmen who have been honing their skills for centuries. The key to a successful shopping sojourn is knowing how to navigate its labyrinthine souk and bargain for top-quality caftans, rugs, and leather goods.
“The souks offer a fascinating mix of traditions, from Berber to French,” says Exclusive Resorts’ Co-Chairman of the Board, Philippe Bourguignon. Having spent his boyhood in Morocco, Bourguignon makes regular trips back to Marrakech and has mastered the art of unearthing the city’s best artisans. “I always recommend people have a guide when they go to the souk,” he says. “If you’re alone, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of stalls and it can be overwhelming having artisans heckling you. A guide will know exactly where to go for what you need and will help you get the best deal.”
And while the medina is Marrakech’s most famous shopping mecca and bucket-list experience, Bourguignon also frequents the independent boutiques in Gueliz, the shops of the Majorelle area near the famous gardens, and Sidi Ghanem, the industrial area, where you shop directly in showrooms. Many of the city’s riads and luxury hotels also have detour-worthy boutiques, and Rosena Chamoy, founder of Boutique Souk, can unlock the doors to some of the city’s top workshops and studios. Here, Bourguignon shares his Marrakech shopping black book.
“Marrakech is an amazing city for leather goods — shoes, bags, and jackets,” says Bourguignon. Galerie des Tanneurs has been in business for over 25 years. You can shop off the shelf from their store or have pieces made-to-order in the neighboring workshop. “I brought in a photo of a jacket I wanted, they took my measurements, and in 24 hours I had a jacket that I now wear once or twice a week. You cannot beat the quality,” he says.
Tucked away in the heart of the medina in the El Ksour district, this family business is known for ancestral carpets and Berber antiques. Artisans are on hand to explain the differences between the highly prized M’rirt carpets, dense wool, and Arab carpets distinguished by their floral motifs.
Located in the industrial area, about a 20-minute taxi ride from the medina, Topolina is the eponymous atelier of French designer Isabelle Topolina. Shop her exquisite hand-sewn dresses made from fabrics sourced in the souks, Chinoiserie-print loafers, and wax-print textiles imported from Senegal. Her son, Pierre-Henry, oversees the well-edited men’s collection.
A shoe lover’s dream, this high-end boutique in Gueliz features endless shelves of soft leather loafers in colors ranging from a sensible camel tone to an outrageous pink patent.
The city’s top concept shop spans two floors of goods made by up-and-coming local artists and designers like Hamimi Living and Ray Joyce Designs. In contrast to the souk, everything is wonderfully curated in a gallery-esque manner, making it effortless to browse the boldly printed babouches (slippers), kitchen goods, and tassel earrings.
Ensemble Artisanal - Avenue Mohammed V
For handmade wares without the haggling, head to this government-sponsored complex of shops where all goods have fixed pricing. “It’s not as exotic as the medina, but you’ll find the best handicrafts here,” says Bourguignon. “I bought a cedar pen I absolutely love.”