A Market of Opinions

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Moroccan markets. The visions that first pop into my head are rows of genie shoes adorned with beads in any color you can imagine. Pastel green, rose red, sea blue, lavender, neon orange. I see layers of maroon rich carpets. I imagine the small stone passageways within the medina. This was the norm for the souks I visited in Morocco, but what made them all different was the atmosphere found within them. During our short trip to Fez, we visited a textile shop. Inside we were met with scarves of deep aquas, bright pinks, and caterpillar greens. There were beautiful hand stitched tapestries, the colors of the rainbow, adorning the walls. We were lead to the loom at the back of the room to see how the fabrics were made. The owner expertly wound scarves around our heads, turning us into Arabian warriors. The whole experience felt like a sales pitch. It felt like a tourist trap, the kind of trap that I detest with my entire being. Fez seemed menacing compared to Asilah.

This beach town afforded me the hospitality that I knew Morocco was famous for. On our last night in Asilah, a group of us went out to finish our shopping. The medina in Asilah is quite small compared to those in other cities in Morocco. Its walls are white with navy blue accents. Locals wonder the streets, calling hello to friends passing by. Just walking down one of the streets, one can feel the tight knit community of the area. As we wandered into a small shop, the owner greeted us with a toothy smile. He had the usual trinkets: stone camels, leather shoes, and jewelry. A blanket caught my eye. It boasted the colors of the rainbow with silk woven in among it. “How much?” I asked in Spanish. “300 dirhams,” he responded and so began the relationship of the bargain. At the end of it all, I was able to get 30 d’s knocked off, perhaps not an amazing bargain but I don’t mind. The man was kind and I value this pleasant experience. Yes, there was money he had to make, but our interaction wasn’t just about the profit margin. It was about sharing in an experience.

Our ISA guide, Mouhsine, expressed that he didn’t like Fez at one point during our trip. I had the chance to speak with his wife, Alexa, about his opinion. “He doesn’t like Fez because they are overpriced,” she explained, “They are just out to make money.” Comparing my experiences and hearing how a local such as Mouhsine rejects the overpricing that happens within Fez leads me to believe that the people of Morocco would much rather be welcoming to visitors than trick them out of money. There are those who cheat to get their money, but the overarching theme I found in Morocco is one of hospitality. The face of Morocco is that of a fair shop owner, one willing to engage in a relationship, if only temporarily, with someone he will never see again.

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