The narrow winding streets of the medina are sheltered on both sides (and sometimes above) by shops; it is an ancient shopping mall of pretty much all things conceivable….living animals waiting to become meals, or their kin already slaughtered, silver, copper being made, rugs, tile. Whatever you need is nestled somewhere between one of the many mosques and just beyond the gaggle of tourists.

Of course nothing amid all this stuff is priced in the American sense. Instead there is a tradition of haggling – especially among the Berber. The haggle, depending on the size of the purchase, can be involved. Folks order you tea and establish a “friendship”. Someone inevitably touched my arm, lightly and quickly, while gazing intently at me, “it is important that we make friends, not just business. You give me your best price, I give mine, if they meet, great. If not, you have your money and I have my things and we part as friends.”

I heard that from a number of people – the Berber rug man that was the first shop we entered today (his first customer too…which is apparently lucky for us both, except I didn’t buy a $200, albeit beautifully handcrafted rug). He, the soft seller of the group, remained friendly enough but his brother muttered bitterly as we dissolved into the crowd beyond their door after sipping tea and admiring their wares.

later, in search of the famous tanneries, where leather is prepared and dyed, we acquired a tour guide of sorts. Part of the “cooperative” not guide we were assured. But we were ushered from leather shop to rug shop to leather shop to Berber pharmacy. The pharmacy held the first successful purchases of the day…for BushDiva that included argon oil. More hustle and bustle and we were heading out of the medina when BD, ever price conscious, noticed argon oil for a fraction of the price (60MAD to the 400MAD she paid).

Back we plunged into the maze, weaving our way to the pharmacy. BD, unsuccessful in her attempt to receive a refund/reduction in price, left her purchase on the counter. We were followed. Another “heartfelt” exchange ensued, to no avail, and so we plunged back toward the exit.

This time we were hailed into a “berber museum” with an exquisitely carved stone ceiling. More tea was had (berber whiskey)– we were auspiciously the last customers of the day (lucky like being the first apparently)– and there was great laughter and camaraderie…until the haggling began. BD went first and her negations, light hearted at first, became more serious as the shop owner accused her of promising to buy the dagger in question. Visibly irked, he moved to me and the purchase of silver and turquoise earrings. Upon my first bid he snatched back the earrings and began speaking…in berber I presume…with animated irritation and I’m fairly sure quite a few explitives.

At this point I became fairly certain that our photo was posted somewhere in the medina branding us as pains in the butt. BD laughed it off but I have to admit, while perusing the silver area, I eyed the charms of a downward facing hand with a blue eye in the palm, meant to ward off the evil eye.

By the time we emerged from the maze, I was exhausted…and hungry. Unfortunately food disappointed today. My dinner consisted of bland couscous with overcooked vegetables and tasteless meat. Not quite what I had floating in my Moroccan dreams – but I hold out hope against hope for tomorrow where a trip to the much heralded La Maison Bleu…here’s hoping for a foodgasm.

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1 Comment on how to lose friends and get gouged with a smile

  1. Casimir says:

    I do admire your passion for writing and the time you put in.
    In short, I`ve become all of a sudden your admirer! Amuse-toi bien!

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