This is a man’s world, but it is a women’s market.

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The women in the markets of Morocco came in two flavors: sellers and buyers.  The women who were selling in the market seemed to be stubborn, difficult to bargain with.  The woman with whom I interacted ran a sweets stand.  She had figs, dates, nuts, and what looked like petite fours, tiny confections of varying colors and flavors.  She did not speak very good English which was different from the majority of the male sellers I interacted with.  This woman seemed to not care whether we bought anything from her or not, affecting a disinterested air.  When we tried to talk to her she gave in haltingly, as though she were more concerned with getting us our selected product and getting us out than satisfying our curiosity about her stall and the family she enlisted to help her run it.  She was dressed in contemporary western clothing wearing pants, a t-shirt and cardigan.  Sitting in front of her was her sister, who was dressed in a brightly colored hijab and caftan.  The difference between the sisters dress could have been simply explained as different choices in personal expression as is common among sisters.  It is also possible that being a female seller in a market frequented by tourists of all kinds, she had intentionally chosen to wear a more familiar dress so that she could entice a more western, which often means more gullible and wealthy, audience in order to make a more robust living.  This was different from the male sellers as they were often eager to strike up a conversation, to the point that sometimes you would be sat down and filled in on his entire life story amid the haggling and bargaining. 

On the other side of that the women who were out in the market shopping were of a far more formidable breed.  The one woman I found myself in a perfect position to watch wore both caftan and hijab.  She was out shopping quickly navigating the busy avenues while her husband and child struggled to keep up with her.  When she came to the stall where I was shopping, she politely waited until the seller noticed her and began selling to her in between answering my questions.  She had prepared a list that she handed to the seller who promptly gathered all the items, bagged them and gave her a total.  She haggled a little with the man as he used the scripted market/seller shenanigans of quoting her in riyals while she retorted in dirhams.   I do not have any idea what they were saying to each other, though I could tell she was driving a hard bargain and giving the seller very little wiggle room.  When they had come to an agreement with which they could both be happy she handed over her cash and he his parcel.  But that was not the end for her.  While I was pointing out the items that I wanted, asking after the price of other things, I watched out of the corner of my eye as she opened her bag to rifle through all of the things she had bought.  Apparently there was some discrepancy with her order.  Rather than letting the man get away with whatever strange business he had pulled, she walked right back up with her family in tow, and once again waited until she was noticed.  When she gained his attention again she politely but firmly explained what she had found and waited for his response.  I think I saw his sweat a little.  The woman’s demeanor was interesting to me as she appeared polite but behind that was an unwavering determination, a strength that spoke of an absolute intolerance of being swindled. 

While the positions were different both women exhibited a no-nonsense attitude that seemed to suit them in their roles.  It was interesting to be able to observe such a formidable bearing from women in a country that has a reputation for female meekness.  

Oh, and here is a picture of Natalie buying apricots from the lady’s stall 🙂

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