Thursday, May 12, 2016


The Bazaar

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”
       Dante Alighieri
The Divine Comedy – The Inferno

We just ended a perfectly wonderful vacation in Morocco. The weather was pleasantly warm and the people were fabulous hosts. If you have not traveled there, I would urge you to plan a trip soon. We stayed in riads (guest houses, usually with 4-10 rooms with baths,food service and most western mod-coms,even wifi. English is no problem,nor,of course is French or Arabic.

Riad in Marrakesh

The riads are located in the “old city” part of town, called the Medina. The Medina of each city is a miniature city in itself, walled from invaders or perhaps to keep the citizenry inside, the walls are reminiscent of castle walls. Within the Medina there are shops for everything necessary for daily life, as the inhabitants both live and work within these walls. 

The streets are not really streets, but a series of winding alleyways, often without names. They are often too narrow for cars and transportation is walking, motorbikes and carts (pulled by donkeys or people).

 Of course it it very easy to get lost, especially at night, with no street lights and everything looking the same. But there are two types of “lost” in the Medina. The second is the area of the bazaar, the market , the souks.

Every tourist guide book will have pages about the market sellers. Some areas are shops where the bargaining is civil (and somewhat limited, although one should always try for the best price). Other areas are stalls where the seller sits outside and tries to entice you to buy. The amount of merchandise is staggering. Hundreds of thousands of key chains, scarfs, tee shirts, jewelry. 

 Early in the day one can see throngs of tourists energetically pushing their way through large numbers of other tourists (just in case there would be some shortage of goods to buy).
They are sheep going to slaughter. They are accosted immediately by the sellers.
The words “just looking, not right now, I'll be back” or just plain “NO” are ignored. Having read their guide books, tourists know about the bargain process. Believe me, they know nothing of what is to come. By midday the energetic shoppers have slowed their pace, their eyes have a glazed look. The crowds, the noise, the heat are taking their toll. By early afternoon they are “lost”. They wander along loaded with large plastic bags filled with their treasures. It is not until they pack their bags for home that they realize exactly what has happened.

Do you avoid this experience? Never!!! It is part of a lifestyle different from our usual trip to the mall.

This is the stuff that makes the tales of our trips interesting. But remember this is the livelihood of the vendors. This is how they feed their families. No matter how strongly they push, be polite. Just walk away if you are not interested. Also be aware that using a credit card for small purchases decreases the money available to the vendor. In fact, many small merchants hesitate to accept plastic at all.

In the coming weeks I will share my other experiences, including the master of all sellers: The Carpet Seller.

No comments:

Post a Comment