Some of our friends didn’t like it. But Marrakech has long been famous as the home of the market. We saved the best till last and hopefully we were a lot more experienced with how to deal with the hustle. As it turned out, they were just more persistent.
Google maps does not work in Marrakech. As much as we like their free services, they let us down badly here and we got lost, which meant someone could prey on an opportunity to make a quick buck. Leaving our tour, we were lost down a side alley looking for our Riad. The sudden call to prayer flooded the streets and one man with best intentions stopped to help us. So did his mate. We didn’t really need a guide, let alone two and they ‘led’ us a few metres to our unmarked accommodation. Our host Nicole was waiting and berated us for not following her directions, being half an hour late for not staying with her more than night. It was like being scolded by Grandma and made us happy we were only with her for one night – it was exhausting.
In the main square; Jemaa el Fnaa, they had hundreds of food stalls. We made the mistake of seeing what was on offer. In these places, you can’t have your head on a swivel.
Hey you, where you from? Hello, no thank-you. We’ve just eaten.
Ah English? Are you from Ipswich? No.
Ah, Australian? Getting warmer…
Ah, you from New Zealand!!! You a sheep shagger!! Aye?!
We didn’t have the heart to tell him he was probably serving that lamb to his customers in a tagine…
The second trick is persistence. Persist, persist, persist! Now, I saw this from all salesmen, who would often interrupt you or change tack or offer yet another bowl, scarf or a bottle of argan oil, just so you would pay them to either leave you alone, or because they had invested so much time!
We opted to take time out and sit on the terraces watching the hapless tourists below. One had a monkey in a Messi shirt unwittingly placed on his shoulder. While he was juggling this, another man placed a baby monkey on his other shoulder. The wife didn’t really know what to make of it, so she took a photo. Then the monkeys started fighting on his head. Meanwhile their young daughter was being given a bubble gun and then she started asking her father to buy it for her. It was madness! It didn’t end too, when he was asked to pay for it – he was being haggled up!
This was nothing on the snakes though. We couldn’t walk through there with knowledge one might be draped around our shoulders at any moment. It was like you had to either pay for a photo or pay them to take it off you.
The souks were where the real action happened, I guess you can say that we learned a lot about selling. But what we really learned was how to buy. After 9 days of being pursued, appeased and conned, we started gaining confidence. We learned to say no – and if we ever happened to want to purchase we knew to;
- Never name a price,
- Always be on topic, and
- Walk away at least twice.
We saw tourists getting charged 100 Dirhams for a scarf that we later went back and bought for 20. In the end we were almost doing it for sport!
Managed some great deals, but at the expense of accumulating a large amount of unintended trinkets – But hey, at least our Christmas shopping is now done!