A souk is an open-air marketplace found in Middle Eastern and North African cities. Souks were traditionally held outside, so that the merchants could easily unload their caravans and display their goods for sale. Over time, Souks became more than just a market to buy and sell goods; they also became venues for major festivals and became a popular meeting area for locals and travelers alike.
In any village or town in the Middle East, you can find souks or Middle Eastern bazaars selling some of the finest crafts made by Middle Eastern artisans in the area. Each souk is unique and can have anything from Middle Eastern spices, to Arabian lamps and lanterns, to belly dancing costumes. Some of the most popular items, however, are Moroccan carpets and Middle Eastern blankets.
In the countryside and in smaller towns, the people take turns as to which day of the week their souks should occur, which allows merchants to travel from town to town and reach more customers.
In larger cities, souks are held on a grander scale where entire blocks are set up for just one particular craft. The crowds at larger souks are vast, but with blocks organized by what they are selling, it is easy to find your way.
Middle Eastern Souks are unlike stores in American where everything has a fixed price. Bargaining the price of an item is accepted and in some souks, required. You can bargain for any item, even cobras! The price displayed on an item is a starting point for the bargaining and gives the buyer an idea of the item’s value, so they know where to begin and end the bargaining. Merchants expect buyers to offer a lower price and with time and patience, you can get the best possible price for your item.
It is always best to explore a souk or bazaar as much as you can before bargaining for an item. If you have a particular item in mind before you go to a souk, it is best to research it to the fullest so that you get exactly what you want at the best possible price. To get a better idea about the quality you are looking for visit authentic craft museums in the city first. There you can find information on your item and see the difference between the real thing and a knock-off.
In the end, time and patience in the bargaining process as well as knowledge about the item you are bargaining for, will help you have an enjoyable time at any souk. Even if you don’t buy anything, walking around all the merchants and items is enough to make you feel completely in tune with the culture and daily life of the souk.
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