A Tunisian Shopping Centre: The Souks
Tunisia was the first country that put ‘shopping’ on the top of our to-do list. This is simply because it’s a cultural experience in itself. It’s not a complete trip without spending an afternoon at a Tunisian market, or as it’s better called ‘The Souk’.
Shopping is not really our thing, especially while travelling! We kind of see it as a waste of time but more than that, shopping for things that we don’t really need is a waste of money. Travelling is all about new experiences, new sights and soaking up the culture of whatever place we’re in. A standard shopping centre doesn’t really tick any of those boxes, does it?
What Are These ‘Souks’?
A Souk is basically a street or an ally filled with stalls, shops and boutiques selling all kind of products. That’s anything that may come to mind, from antiques to clothes and food. These souks are generally located within the city’s Medina which is basically a sector of the city, surrounded by large walls. What characterises it from the rest of the city are the narrow and maze-like streets. These are found in many Arabic countries, and in fact, in some of the streets in Malta due to Arabic influence on the island. Within the Medina, the city has its most valuable buildings to protect, taking the Zaytoune Mosque in Tunis for example.
The Special Experience of Visiting Such a Tunisian Market
Being special is not the only thing! They are fun and a chance to get beautiful things for a cheap price, another proof of the low amount of money needed to visit Tunisia! These souks bring out the bargaining and bartering skills of the individual. As you walk in one of the streets or allies, you’ll immediately be called over by the shop owners. Everyone wants to show and sell you their products, sometimes leading to complete chaos considering that there is a different shop with every step.
If you show the SLIGHTEST interest, the game begins. The price will start ridiculously high, keeping in mind the cost of other items in Tunisia. Most of the time, you’ll be able to lower the price by 25% to 50% of the original price.
Our main tip to barter in a Tunisian market is very simple. Firstly, you have to set a price in your mind for the item you’re interested in and go a bit lower than that. Let’s say the shop owner asked for 30 Dinars for an item, but instantly in your mind you know you’re willing to pay 20 Dinars for it. At that moment, make yourself sound believable that 15 Dinars is the maximum you’ll pay. In the end, start rising your way up to 20 Dinars and 99% you’ll get the price.
Don’t give up easily. However, we recommend bartering responsibly. What we mean is not to waste the experience offering ridiculous prices that you’ll never come to an agreement to. Firstly, it’s enjoyable when you’re actually getting to buy the item and secondly, keep in mind that these people make their living from the souks.
Besides bartering, visiting the traditional cafés within a Tunisian market and sipping on a mint tea is definitely the best shopping break. They are usually the ones with the locals which we recommend best!
Which Souks in Tunisia to Visit?
The cities marked on the right have got the most interesting medinas around Tunisia, all filled with different souks of their own. Ourselves, we visited Hammamet’s, Sousse’s and the Tunis Medina, the latter being the most we recommend! Within the Medina of Tunis, you’ll have over 15 different souks to choose from. You can’t really choose the best, as all of them sell different items from hand-made crafts to traditional & modern clothes. For any of you heading further south into the Sahara Desert, these souks are a great place to buy some cheap and traditional desert wear. They surely helped us to blend in more throughout or adventure in the Sahara, we even got complimented by a desert nomad!