Morocco Markets

Lots of babouche

The Medina (ancient walled city) of Marrakech is known for its Souks (markets) and for good reason.  Winding kilometers of narrow streets are packed with shops and stalls selling a wide variety of the same stuff: colorful babouche (handmade slippers), polished wood boxes, metal lanterns, vibrant scarves, chunky silver jewelry, aromatic spices, woven reed bags and a huge assortment of tassels, which seem to adorn everything. We drift past stalls producing pieces of the babouche/sandal process — leatherworkers cutting hides by eye with huge shears, dyers with vats of bright colors, assemblers stitching together the final work.  Pyramids of spices lure the eye.  A shop catering to black magic offers illegally poached leopard, zebra and anaconda skins along with sheep horns, chameleons and packets of powders and bird-parts.

Every tourist in the city is here.  Some wander with a look of wonder, wide eyes darting left and right.  Others trudge toward one of the known exits from the maze, heads drooping, an overwhelmed expression frozen on their face.  I love it.

Smiling salesmen call out to us. Their goal is to get us into their shop, and their command of languages is impressive.  Quickly cycling through Arabic, French and English, they peg us quickly, imploring us to “just look, no buy!”  “Fatima, Mohammed, in here…” employing generic Moroccan names for female and male tourists.  The pitch increases if we hesitate, but usually we continue on, smiling with a happy “la shokran” (no thank you).  The smile is always returned; everyone seems to be pretty happy in this country.

If we are interested in their wares and enter the shop, we are bombarded with options.  After a quick look, if we decline, they assume it’s a bargaining tactic and counter with, “you tell me how much!”  Trying to slide out of the shop, the one-way discussion continues, “no offense; just tell me how much you pay.  Give me a price; make me happy.” On the other hand, if we are interested, the dance begins.  It never ceases to amaze me how much the rest of the world negotiates (at least with tourists).  In Morocco, we tend to buy at about 30-50% of our original quote, which seems to make everyone happy: we feel like we got a deal, and clearly they wouldn’t be selling if they didn’t like the price!  It is fun, but exhausting.

Dinner in the market stalls

Even dinner in the Souk is an experience.  First, we navigate the groups of local people listening to storytellers and musicians or visiting the dentist.  Dozens of stalls are set up each day, assembling hundreds of pounds of steel structures, tables and benches and kabob fires.   Hard-working men accost us, encouraging us to eat at their establishment.  This particular night, we decide we like vendor #42, which makes him exceedingly happy.  Slapping backs, singing, we are guided to our bench for a round of olives, fired kabobs and eggplant.  Our group of 3 Mohammeds and 3 Fatimas have had a great day in Marrakech.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!