“Welcome to My Shop”

by

Ah the market… When I imagined going to Morocco, I envisioned a labyrinth of small alleyways and countless stalls filled to the brim with souvenirs of all shapes and sizes. Yes, of course, Morocco was full of all this and more, but little was I anticipating the actual conversation and interactions between myself and the shop-keepers. Quickly following my first experience in the medina of Meknes, the market experience became my favorite destination.

There is something both terrifying and magical about getting lost in the market, navigating shops lined with silken scarves and tables lined with leather shoes. Walking amongst the locals who barter for their daily provisions and listening to cryptic conversations in Arabic is unlike any sense-filled experience. Thousands of smells accost your nostrils as you sidestep cow heads and hanging intestines with their consequential puddles. Then through the fragrant spice market where red and yellow powdered mounds tower over the walkway, you would transverse the complex grid system. “Theres a cat” soon became the phrase of choice for my peers and I as mangy felines both timid and bold meandered through the alleyways with a better sense of direction than us bunch of Americans. Once I set my sights upon that golden trinket of my dreams, the game was on and the experience richened. My first buying experience was entirely in French, or broken French on my part, as I attempted to purchase a pair of grey slippers. For the most part, I was thankful to discover that many shop-keepers spoke some english. Yet, none the less I would inquire, “combien?…combien?” to each sales person and with a quick “shukran”, I would depart again.

The interactions I cherished most were those where I could connect with the seller through bartering. The old weathered men like Idriss in the Fes tannery who repeated, “what is your final offer?” and the man in Marrakech who kept slapping the leather bag to somehow prove it’s unique craftsmanship and stability. Within the grandiose market, it is somewhat easy to become upset when you purchase a trinket for 200D only to discover that it’s real worth lies at a lower 100. Whether it was a man or woman who gives you a price above your estimated range, the thrill of the bargain is enough to develop a fun relationship with this “trickster” figure. An affection is kindled in these interactions, which heightened my love for the Moroccan medina with it’s shoulder-to-shoulder passageways and playful atmosphere. While I was primarily only consumed in the acquisition of goods, there was born within me an endearing feeling towards the crowded, smelly, adventure-filled marketplace. I will never forget Morocco for providing the unique market experience that was beyond my wildest imagination in both the vast amount of goods it boasted and the people that I encountered and grew so fond of. Is this not apart of crossing boundaries and bridging the cultural gap?

 

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