Every Thursday, I walk the half-mile between my house and my village’s weekly souk for groceries and other household items. A souk is an open-air bazaar similar to a farmers market, and it’s essentially a one stop shop for most needs. Whether you want a chicken for lunch—which WILL have its throat slit in front of you—or a new couch (called a ponj) for your living room (called a salon), the souk is your best bet for a good deal—as long as you’re willing to haggle.
Even if you don’t talk a merchant down to the price you want, chances are you’re probably getting a great deal anyway—especially if you’re using U.S. dollars. The Moroccan Dirham (MAD) is about one-tenth of a U.S. Dollar (USD), so if you think you’re spending a lot on a 200 dirham rug, just divide by 10 and notice that you’re only spending about 20 USDs. Granted, I’m living on a volunteer stipend, so if I can talk that 200 dirham rug down to 150 dirhams, I absolutely will.
A volunteer from a previous cohort once shared a piece of advice with me that really stuck: “Treat your dirhams like dollars,” he said. Meaning, if I spend 5 dirhams on a coffee, I have to think of myself as having spent 5 USDs, not 0.50 USDs. For those of you who regularly spend 10 USDs at Starbucks (That’s 100 dirhams, you maniacs!), I now perceive it as you spending 100 USDs. Normally, I spend between 80 and 100 MADs (about 8 and 10 USDs, respectively) at my souk, and I generally won’t buy much more throughout the week.
This week, I spent 80 MADs on groceries, or about 8 USDs:
I made a comparison table to show the price differences between the cost of my groceries in Morocco, and the cost of the same groceries in the U.S.; I selected from a list of average prices in Spokane, Washington, as it’s the closest city to my hometown. I also converted the prices of everything from my souk to USDs in order to make the table comparisons easier to understand.
|Price in the U.S. (USD)||Price in Morocco (USD)|
|Apples (1 kg)||4.47||1.00|
|Bananas (1.5 kg)||2.31||1.50|
|Bell Peppers (1 kg)||5.00||0.60|
|Black Pepper (1 oz)||4.00||0.50|
|Carrots (1 kg)||3.00||0.30|
|Eggplant (0.5 kg)||3.00||0.20|
|Olive Oil (0.5 L)||8.00||1.50|
|Oranges (1 kg)||3.85||0.40|
|Peaches (1 kg)||7.00||1.00|
|Total: 43.32||Total: 8.00|
The total cost of these groceries in MADs at U.S. prices would be 430 MADs, which blows my mind; people spend that kind of money on furniture and electronics here! Moving back to the U.S. when I finish my service will probably be a rude awakening for my wallet.
As always, feel free to comment with questions!