My boyfriend turned to me and laughed. ‘See’, he said trying to ease my fears, ‘I told you that they would want to trade you for some camels’. I tried not to look so pleased. So many people had told me that this happened or had happened to them or their pretty friends but it was nearing the end of our trip and no one, not even the ugliest buck toothed peddler had offered up anything in exchange for my love. wasn’t I worth even one lousy camel? Not even the oldest most haggard one?Did I smell, or was my face getting too red walking about under the midday sun?Perhaps my perfume had expired and so my pheromones were going haywire but maybe I was just having a few “off days”, who could tell? One thing was for sure though, it just wasn’t happening with me in the Moroccan love department, that is until now…
We had spent 20 minutes bartering for a bracelet.
-“If I had a woman like you I wouldn’t argue over 50dhs. I would buy you this bracelet for 150 dhs”, said the owner of the next door shop as he grinned broadly, knowing he was in ear shot of both his friend the seller and my boyfriend. “In fact, if I had you”, he continued, “I would give you diamond and a detached house with a villa!”
-“See, I told you that they would want to trade you for some camels”.
-“No, not camels, diamond! Big diamond”, he answered.
This was enough to break my boyfriend’s concentration. Moroccan suitors were no longer to be underestimated it seemed. Love like everything else in Marrakesh had moved into the 21 st century and apparently camels were now just a thing of the past. His family had two houses, one in Wimbledon, the other in Kensingon and he had lived there for over 10 years… Was this just a final last resort tactic, the straw that would break the camels back, the thing which would get my red sweating denuded boyfriend to pay the 150 dhs and whisk me away before I could think twice about the life without work, the free house, the huge rock and a life time of goat skin shoes? Most probably. Did it work? Of course it did. Does this take away the fact that I got a proposal? Of course not! Was I disappointed not to get offered loads of camels? A bit…
We had come a long way since my first attempt at bartering, where I was lectured in the leather shop on the etiquette of Moroccan shopping- apparently you can’t keep lowering your offer once someone has accepted it as I was doing With my sails a bit deflated I entered the souks up North close to the Madersa Ben Youssef – I mean what a way to rain on my shopping parade with an angry accusation of dirty dealing!
We negotiated our way through the maze, away from the tanneries and down towards Place de Jemaa El Fna. It was a journey filled with wonders: the artisans and their studios, the burrows covered in goat hides, the metal workers and the old man who carved beautiful chess sets with his feet. Then, closer to the main square we found the more sumptuous shops selling soft babouches and colorful carpets. Sometimes it was hard to know where to go and so whenever we found a few tourists we would surreptitiously follow them down, that is if we didn’t get waylaid by some treasure or shiny object. It was very dark in the main souks, darker than I had imagined and in some places dyed material and animal hides hung from the rafters . Bamboo had been laid across the passages to protect the bustling world below from the harsh gaze of the sun. A few lucky little shafts of light did manage to seep through though and when a person walked through these pools of gold they were lit up as if they had been chosen by God himself. We could see where we were going, but not because the sun was high in the sky, but thanks to the warm inviting glow of the shops and the thousands of lanterns and glass lamps on sale in the thousands of Alibaba caverns dotted along our road to openness. Along the main arteries of the market these lanterns shone bright and lit up the darkness like tiny stars. Down narrower streets the lights were off but on our arrival sellers illuminated their caverns and turned them into glorious caves filled with precious metals, gem stones and genies and in this way the darkness parted as we moved forward into the maze.
We had to barter for everything and shopping Moroccan style was hard. Every person wanted to show us something or sell us something else. If they didn’t have it, they knew someone else who did. When we looked it would take time to leave especially if trying not to be too rude, and when we wanted to buy we had to mentally prepare ourselves that the deal could take a good 1/2 hour to negotiate. They were so much better than us though and we had to resort to communicating with them in Spanish instead of French to try to put them at a slight disadvantage. We had artisans make us sculptures to take away, give us guided tours of their work shops, we were offered tea and humoured and really every time we fell for it, enjoyed it and bought their products (which I may say were lovely anyway, so win win all round!).
This part is for those of you who are interested in our purchases and the prices that I paid. 10 dhs = approx 1 euro. We bought domino sets (80-100), a leather pouf (180 dhs) and hundreds of pairs of shoes, (100 dhs for the best quality handmade leather babouches is a good price, but if you are buying many then you can get them for 90dhs each). We also bought 8 pairs of earrings ( 80 dhs), a leather hand stitched camel (10 dhs), 2 his/hers leather wallets (80 dhs for the pair), leather rucksack (180 dhs), natural perfume (1 dhs a gram), key rings (10 dhs each), hand painted tagine (150 dhs).
And…Don’t forget you can now stay up to date with our adventures, travels and outfits on my social media 🙂