After spending all night on the train, our day began by debating whether we should walk or take a taxi to the grand plaza. Morocco is a land of bargaining and negotiating prices from taxi’s to souvenirs to even hotels and tours. We were approached by a taxi driver with a high price and our savvy bargaining skills, all of us throwing out numbers without talking first of what we should pay, we were turned down. When another taxi man approached, we didn’t even attempt because his price sounded so good at 40 dirhams (4E) with our luggage. Silly us. (should have been 20D).
We arrived to the plaza as it was just waking up. We passed by a horse carriage taxi rank and watched dried fruit sellers and vendors arranging their wares, motorcycles zipping by, and the plethora of fresh squeezed orange juice stalls. 4dms a glass (40 euro cents). We bargained again because well, that’s what you do in Morocco, right?- 4 glasses for 10 dms (instead of 16dm). There is an amazing amount of competition of orange juice sellers all with the exact same looking stall, same set up that I wonder if they have a bigger boss or all just thought an orange juice cart was a fabulous idea- all with the exact same choices and same prices…
We went to our hostel, Trip and friends, on a small cobblestone street but you wouldn’t know it was a hostel if you didn’t have the address. We were greeted by friendly smiles and delicious sugary mint tea and sat down on the colorful cushions and pillows. Our new friends, Matt and Juan, had joined us since they didn’t have a hostel booked. We all laughed and smirked at each other when they told us, “Don’t worry, Take it easy” when they asked if they’re was availability. We left our bags without anyone checking our names or confirming our reservation. They never would. Ha. Juan and Matt decided to go to a different place when we returned 6 hours later and were told to wait and wait and wait and “Take it easy.” They didn’t feel so comfortable with the idea of “yes, you’ll have a place to sleep but we don’t know where yet.” (And said in fewer words than this.)
Slightly sleepy and still in the clothes from the day before, we headed out to explore Marrakech. Our guidebook recommended “getting lost in a souq (market) and we did just that. The souqs are a maze of streets full of shops selling everything you can dream up from leather goods, ceramics, silver jewelry, rugs, blankets, scarves, laterns, glass tea cups and teapots.
We stopped into a herbalist shop and next thing we knew, we’re smelling all different types of herbs.
And then continued on…
I admired scarves (yes, I have too many and NO, I can never have enough!) but was annoyed when starting prices were higher than prices in Spain (for similar style if not the same scarves!). I was annoyed that in Morocco when you ask a price, you begin the bargaining process- because you show interest. I’m the type of traveler and shopper who likes to compare prices before I buy.. not so fast, Lauren! A few times when the price was shamefully high and I told the vendor so, “Sabes es mas barato en España.” He didn’t really appreciate my knowledge and angrily said, “Then buy it in Spain.” Well, F#$&, I will.
I learned quickly that Marrakech may not be the best place to buy because prices are so high because it’s tourist paradise. Vendors are astute. They’re smart. They’ve learned that tourists like to spend money and why not earn as much as possible? After all, it’s not always about supply and demand because heaven knowns, I mean, Allah knows, Morocco is busting at the seems with beautiful leather bags, vivid ceramic plates and bowls, silver jewelry, rugs, you name it and they continue to make them as if they’ll be sold out tomorrow. It’s a seller’s market. Tourist want it? How much you willing to pay? People pay and prices are high. The cost to make things in Morocco is less but… ah never mind. It’s just the way it is.
But I did enjoy just browsing all the beauty.
Later when we found a Women’s cooperative, which was unfortunately small, I appreciated items were priced and the prices were fair. I found myself at ease and happy to be buying from women. I realized then the market place, is a man’s land, aggression and machismo for sale with ‘whatever you’re buying.’ I bought a few small ceramic bowls and didn’t even bargain. I probably could have but it was one of the few times I felt like I was getting a fair price and I’d prefer to buy from a woman any day, at least in Morocco.
From the outside, Morocco is a man’s land. Men are at cafés, men are all over the streets, men are running the shops, men are serving in restaurants, men are everywhere. Everywhere. Women are in the street but I’d say for every 10 men, there is one Moroccan woman. Quite a ratio. Yet I know, it’s cultural and men and women do a lot of things separately. Lisa and I knew having two guy friends traveling with us kept men at bay and we’d experience a lot more attention the night we went to eat at the plaza without them.
Our 2nd night when I wanted to walk down a busy lit street off the plaza, Matt said (who hasn’t traveled much before), “Don’t you feel intimidated and uncomfortable being out at night with all these men?” I thought about it and realized, “Yes, it’s different but you guys are here” but even without them, I know I would not have been intimidated. Traveling in Africa solo has made me confident among African men and feisty, really feisty or does sassy sound better? I’ll say half of the feistiness comes from growing up with a machismo father. I learned to speak up for myself and not be intimidated. Though my dad was good at intimidating me. I have a “don’t mess with me attitude” and though the men may talk, they certainly felt harmless. But don’t worry, we didn’t roam at night by ourselves for more than our 5 minute walk from our hotel. (oh yeah, our 2nd night we changed to a hotel from our hostel, in case you’re wondering, no typo here.)
Where are the food photos??? Stay tuned for “Eating my heart out in: Morocco!
Have you been to Morocco? What did you love most about Morocco? What didn’t you like?
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