While in Spain and Portugal, we debated whether we had the time to also visit Morocco. It was tempting because it was so close by, but we knew we didn’t have the time to see a whole lot. We ended up hopping over and spending 3 days in Marrakech, and although we definitely are interested in seeing other parts of Morocco in the future, we ended up feeling like we had enough time to do Marrakech justice!
It’s a neat city that has both a vibrant and well-preserved old town as well as a newer modern quarter. It’s really a big mix and feels very different depending on where you are, but I enjoyed exploring an interesting, friendly city with lots of cool things to see.
There’s quite a bit of shopping between the old, crowded souks in the medina and the high end boutiques in the new city, and I definitely wanted to grab some beauty supplies while I was in town. The biggest beauty draw in Morocco is the argan oil, as argan trees grow in southwestern Morocco. The general trick to shopping here is not getting terribly ripped off.
After 2 days of walking around the souks and not feeling like I fully understood how much I should be paying for cosmetic oil and not sure which sellers were selling good quality stuff and which were diluting their product, I decided to take a safer (albeit less exciting) route to my shopping: I went to a supermarket.
The thing about the supermarket is that the products are guaranteed to be what they say they are on the label, and you won’t be overcharged for them. While we definitely did do some fun shopping in the more interesting parts of the city, I ended up grabbing all of my beauty items in the supermarket because I found a nice selection of stuff at really satisfying prices.
A helpful bonus when shopping for argan oil at the supermarket is that the price per ml doesn’t vary much in terms of the different bottle sizes, so you don’t have to buy the biggest bottle in order get the best price. I picked out this certified organic argan oil from Argapur. You guys, these 60 ml bottles (about 2 oz) cost just over $5 each. $5! I was tempted to buy a whole bunch of them, but the biggest concern I had was their shelf life. I came home with two.
The next thing I grabbed was some pure henna powder for coloring my hair. Now, you can totally buy henna in the markets and I wouldn’t be as concerned about getting cheated as I am with argan oil. Henna’s fairly cheap, and the worst that could happen is that it’d be expired and weak. But when I saw it packaged at the supermarket, I was happy to see I could take it home in boxes. The markets sell the powder in buckets or piles where it’s definitely more exposed to air and sunlight, so I might as well take the stuff that’s been packaged and stored. Plus, I bought it for precisely half of what a fixed price stall wanted to sell it for. Each 200g box was $1.89, and the only thing that stopped me from seriously stocking up was luggage space. I grabbed two boxes, although since I’m used to buying the blocks of henna from Lush, I don’t actually know how much powder I need for an application. I’ll let you know how it goes.
When we first arrived in our riad hotel, I noticed that alongside little bottles of shampoo we had a jar of dark brown goo sitting in our shower. I tried to Google “brown goo” with no success, and it wasn’t until I saw it being sold in the market that I was able to figure out what it was called: savon noir, or black soap. This is a bath product made with olive fruit oil (and it smells just like olives) that gently cleanses and nourishes skin in the Moroccan hammams, or bath houses. Apparently they’ll apply it to their bodies, let it sit for a while, and then scrub it off with an abrasive sponge (or brush, or something). It feels nice to use, and I thought it’d be a fun thing to use at home! This 250 ml jar was somewhere under $3. This is the standard kind which only has two ingredients, olive oil and sodium hydroxide, but they have more modern blends with other things like eucalyptus in them, as well.
That’s my little Moroccan beauty loot! I’m prepared to return to Morocco in the future to keep little essentials in stock … I’m only sort of kidding. Have you been?
I did start using Instagram for the first time during this trip, so if you’re curious about my life you can keep up with me here: