Monday, April 26, 2010


Marrakech is chaos embodied
that's really the best way i can find to describe it.

we arrived at night, 
exausted from a long day on the train.
as was standard for each city we visited,
the most stressful part
was finding the best deal for a taxi
and walking through a maze of streets and insistent men
to find our hotel

i was convinced our taxi driver had dropped us off at the wrong place,
since the square we directed him to 
was nowhere in sight 

we walked determinedly forward
asking women and other tourists for directions
instead of locals
(how silly that should seem)

we found our casa del sol
with a little luck
dropped our things off
and ventured into the unknown
the adventure had given us quite the appetite

it is nothing short of impossible 
to choose a restaurant in 
jema el fna
the square in marrakech.
you must mentally prepare yourself
before walking down an aisle of food vendors.
you think you know what you're looking for
(or at least not looking for)
but you'll be easily confused
easily stressed
by the menus jutted in your face
the men spotting you from 50 meters away

'best price, best price'
'chicken, fish, meat, best menu'
'hungry? time for dinner, best price'

at the end, our choices were rarely made depending on the cuisine
but more because we were tired of being hassled

i guess the odds could have been worse
one night we chose really well
and one night we chose really poorly
the kind of poorly that comes back to you at 3 in the morning
when you wonder, clutching your stomach,
why fate brought you to that particular food stand,
and not the one next door.

alright, i'm being a little overdramatic.
that uneasy stomach,
that's just part of the adventure sometimes

the most thrilling part of marrakech
by far
were the souks
a network of shops 
so thick, so intense
you lose all sense of time
hunger and thirst are afterthoughts

a complete sense overload
shops upon shops upon shops
everything offers something different

wooden objects
teapots and glasses
more rugs
dresses, shirts
sandals, slippers
spices, perfumes
more rugs

i found the shopkeepers to be
much nicer than 
the food stall workers

yes, we heard our fair share of
'pretty lady's
'fish and chips'
but most of it was on a much
more innocent level
no insults were exchanged

haggling was one of the most exciting things
we did on the trip
our hotel owner tipped us off
with some great advice.
never pay more than half of the price
the shopkeepers give you.

i walked around most of the morning, scouting out 
what i knew i wanted to buy
souvenirs, gifts.
a little
preliminary research
if you will.

when i was ready, i jumped in.
bargaining is 
push and pull
it takes a strong will
but flexibility as well

knowing what you want, and for what price
but the ability to give a bit
a little drama thrown in for spice
and for goodness sake
a good sense of humor.

once you've started the bargaining, 
it's not easy to walk away
so you have to be sure you want what you're negotiating for
before you enter into the dance

to give you an idea of the intensity
i spotted a leather bag that 
i knew would be just right
i eyed it,
opened it
made sure it was what i wanted
and then went for it.

'how much?' i asked
'how much good price for you?' the man rebounded
'no, no, i asked you, what is your price?'

a pause
sizing me up

'for you, madame, 800 dirhams' he said to me out of the corner of his eye
80 euros

i of course knew this was WAY too high
but also knew that i had to play along

'800 dirhams?!! oh no, nevermind. that is way too expensive' 
i scoffed.
''that good price, good price.' he added, to see my reaction
after he gives you a price, you have to rebound with your own price.

'i've seen this same purse in other stores (not quite the truth) 
for 250 dirhams!'
25 euros.
when he proposed me 80

then comes the drama from his side
he laughs at me
'madame, that's impossible. this good purse.
good quality. real leather
i tell you what, i give it to you for 750 dirhams'
75 euros

'no i don't think so, thank you.
i can find it somewhere else'
i look towards the street

'okokok madame, last price'

'mmmm my last price would be 300 dirhams'
30 euros
a fair bit below what he said of course
but it's to be expected.
these guys live for the tourists
who come in, ask a price, and pay the first thing they say.

'i make no profit. no profit for 300 dirhams! last price.'

you dance around for awhile longer
the price hopping between you two
'500 student price!'
'320 student price!!'
can't go any lower! 
i'm a student!
it's a beautiful purse
but i can find it somewhere else
even if you're sure that's the only one there is in morocco.

and here's the clencher.
after you've gone as low as you can go.
you walk away.
say thank you, it's beautiful
smile at them, and say goodbye.

and that's where the test is.
if you've done a good job.
you won't be 10 steps away when they call you back.

they'll try to enter into the dance again.
'last price 450 dirhams. 450 dirhams madame'

you hold strong
'no, my last price was 320 dirhams

and with a little luck
and a big smile
you'll walk away with a leather bag

Ever had a bargaining experience?
Tell me one of your travel stories!



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food for thought.

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