I actually enjoy the somewhat controlled chaos that comes from wandering amongst the souks in Marrakesh. Much like the bazaars of Turkey, the souks mostly appear designed to confuse and confound their visitors, eventually resulting in a sale or at least some entertaining negotiations. Watching folks come and go, checking out the various merchandise and the interactions with the merchants is enjoyable, at least to a point.
I hate negotiating on prices. Partly because I’m really bad at it and mostly because I believe in asking a fair price and not trying to screw over your customers. Either way, the process at the souks is not one that I’m good at and not one that I should engage in.
While we have to walk amongst the souks to get from our Riad to most anything else in town, today was the first time we purposefully spent any appreciable time in them on purpose. We were going shopping in hopes of finding some fun souvenirs to bring home.
First up was the Dyer’s Market, a small section of the souks focused on textiles. Easily identified (if not easily found) by the many colored yarns and fabrics hanging overhead, the Dyer’s Market was a good introduction to the shopping fun. Several different people greeted us, inviting us in for a free look at their goods. One offered us to see more on the second floor which turned out to just be for the views of the area, not for merchandise. I enjoyed the views but it didn’t really help with the sale.
We saw pieces of fabric as well as wool and silk yarns in various stages of finishing. The silk was the nicest of the goods – quite the array of colors available, among other things – but it was an absolute mess. I’ve spent many hours happily untangling kite strings and various other crazy knots and looking at this silk was giving me the shakes. Then there was the silk still wet with dye that they were trying to sell us. By weight. And it was no better than the first bundle we looked at in terms of the knotty mess. It is unfortunate because it seemed very nice, but the investment required to clean up the knots would have almost certainly outweighed any cost savings we would have realized.
The wool was terribly rough; I was worried for my hands envisioning the winding process that I’d be helping with should that have come to pass. The fabric was nice enough, I suppose, but it mostly looked pretty just hanging there and I am not going to be wearing a silk scarf anytime soon.
Suffice it to say that the merchants we were talking to were not particularly happy to hear that we deemed their goods to be somewhat sub-standard quality. Still, the mumbling and cursing at us was kept mostly too quiet for us to hear as we left and moved on looking for herbs.
Unlike the proposition I got last night to buy some hashish, we were in the market for more legitimate herbs today. Some black cumin to help with sinus issues was one of the items on the shopping list (in part inspired by this great tale). We made our way to one of the various merchants in the herbs section and started poking around. Pretty soon we had a small collection of plastic baggies on the counter in front of us. I’m quite certain that we overpaid for all of it, but the Moroccan saffron does smell delicious and it was still somewhat below retail price out in the real world (though only by a bit).
There are plenty of other choices for the shop-o-holic. The leather goods are actually quite impressive; it makes me wish that I had a use or desire for one of them. There are the stamped metal lamps and such which are also beautiful but, again, something that I have no use for and they’d quite likely break in my bag on the way home. I definitely do not understand the slipper salesmen. They seem to be around every turn but I have trouble imagining that they are really getting enough business to support themselves. Nonetheless, they are still operating so it must be.
Plenty of shopping to be had and plenty of folks out there doing it and seeming to enjoy every bit of it. I just hate the bargaining part and that’s a big problem when nearly everything here is negotiated that way. Good thing I don’t really want too many souvenirs.