Now You Can Shop at a Moroccan Medina in Real Time From Your Home

travelers in a rug shop

While the plight of airline carriers’ and cruise companies’ economic losses during the pandemic have made headlines, local businesses — especially those that depend on travelers passing through their shops — have felt the challenges even greater and with less of a platform to reach their consumers. 

But a new collaboration between global small-group travel operator Intrepid Travel and Swedish live video shopping startup Local Purse hopes to bridge the gap by bringing virtual real-time souvenir shopping to travelers from the comfort and safety of their homes.

In two pilot events, the companies will offer a Marrakesh Spice and Wellness Experience on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, at 7 a.m. ET and Traditionally Moroccan Berber Rug Experience on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 7 a.m. During the tours, virtual travelers can make purchases directly benefiting the local communities. 

rug vendor in Morocco

In the first event, Marrakesh native Abdeljalil Raqas will guide the virtual group through the medina’s souks to Koutoubia Herbal, his small shop in the city’s famed locale. He’ll explain the benefits of Moroccan food and wellness specialties with opportunities to purchase skincare and spa products, as well as fragrances, spices, and herbs. 

The second tour, led by Fez-born Aziz Mejbar, starts in Marrakesh’s UNESCO World Heritage square Jemaa El Fna, and will wind through the medina’s alleys to his rug shop, Dar Mjber. The rugs are all handmade by the women of various Moroccan tribes and proceeds will go directly to the rural communities.  

Both hour-long experiences will also visit AlNour, which is a skills-training social enterprise that helps local disabled women support themselves by teaching them artisan skills. 

Each tour costs €10 (about $12 USD) and the price of all products purchased will go to the NGOs, artisans, and local guides running the program. 

If the test events in Morocco go well, the hope is to expand the program, starting with private shopping tours in January. Currently, 20 destinations are interested in joining, but still need training in online sales, according to Skift

“It could be a great thing to do long-term in addition to operating trips as the pandemic eases,” Zina Bencheikh, Intrepid’s managing director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, told Skift. “By the end of the first quarter, we should have everything ready to launch and start scaling globally.”

Local Purse had been searching for a partner for their travel industry e-commerce platform that could “help local governments as well as the artisans and other people who preserve traditions,” CEO Lola Akinmade Åkerström also told the outlet. 

They found the perfect partner in Australia-based Intrepid Travel, a certified B Corporation which has been spearheading responsible and ethical travel experiences since 1989, with efforts like their pre-pandemic “Not Hot List” this year to combat overtourism by promoting less popular destinations, as well as cycling trips as part of their environmental efforts as a carbon-neutral company. 

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