“I’m never going back there again”
“I wouldn’t go there for more than 2 days”
“They were so aggressive”
“I felt so overwhelmed all the time and unable to escape”
Comments you wouldn’t expect to find on a holiday brochure for Marrakech, Morocco, but nonetheless ones that were the expressed sentiment as soon as Easyjet had shut the aeroplane door to Manchester and the tourist may as well have been back on his home turf again.
And yet they weren’t angry comments. More just baffled. Because the next sentence would always be one that would reaffirm that they did really enjoy their trip. But did they? Was this sadistic enjoyment?
Why don’t I set the scene? It’s 45 degrees celsius and you’ve headed out for the day in Marrakech. Dressed in as little as possible for a conservative country like Morocco, you have a phone in one pocket for photos and your wallet in the other. Apart from a few sights, mostly the main “attraction” for most people is spending the day walking quaint souk (market) stalls in tiny alleyways.
The maze of tiny stalls, each repeating very similar wares, yet every one unique and with its own quirky personality that probably reflects the owner as he stands there. A true joy to browse.
“monsieur, Monsieur! Vien-ici!” “Look, no buy.”
At which you are greatly pleased. Aha! I can look at all these things and not be forced to buy. Perfect. And so you walk in.
A few minutes of polite chit chat with the stallholder later, you start to browse. Taking interest in a couple of things in particular, you discuss something and take a photo. And the stall owner moves for the kill, with you their unsuspecting prey.
“erm…yes, it’s beautiful” (not meaning to offend)
“Well, I give you good price”
“How much is it?”
“A good price. What would be a good price for you?”
“oh well, I don’t know.”
“well, I’ll offer you a special Ramadan price of 120 dirhams. Normally I would sell it for 340 dirhams, but my brother especially made this one, and so I am able to get it for you far cheaper for you alone today.”
Wow, you think. Such a good offer just for me. And his brother made it….so it’s really authentic. But 11.50 euros…just for that? Oh but it’s genuine, and when else could you buy something like this? And so the internal debate ravages on.
“Oh I think I’ll think about it and come back to you later”
Sensing his prey moving onwards, the stall owner puts himself between you and the door and tries again.
“Oh my friend, this is a one time offer. My brother only made one. Look at how bad the quality of the normal “tourist” ones are! This is a special one for you. You are English. Cheaper prices than Asda for you.”
At which you’d love to still walk out of the shop, but you start to wonder whether he is in fact, very correct. It does indeed appear better than the others. And it would be fun to have.
And so as you pull out your wallet, you hesitantly try another ten dirhams off the price. At which you feel stupid, as this poor man quickly says he couldn’t afford to sell them for that price, and reverts back to the original. And the deal is done. The robbery has happened.
And the only consolation….you probably could afford to be robbed for the joy of such an exchange. A sadistic joy. Paying perhaps more to experience culture than for the item you now walk out to try and squeeze into your hand luggage, that will soon sit in some cupboard, not in use back home.
And unless you understand the culture, this repetition all day will break you.
How could they?!
As you walk into another stall determined for the same thing not to happen again.
“Bonjour monsieur! Look, no buy!”
“NO! JUST TELL ME HOW MUCH IT IS!”
“What would be good price for you Monsieur?”
The man looks so honest. And somehow I spurt out a figure. And in a split second of madness I wonder whether I’m dealing with a reincarnated man from the last stall.
And my Dirhams which once were a good exchange rate against the Euro, have just somehow vanished in Euro-like quantities.