Here are a couple of stories from the Jamaa el Fna and souk:
Attacklad went for the snake charmers like he was late for a flight. By the time I could grab him he’d gotten me covered in snakes and given my phone to the snake charmers so they could take pictures of him, me, snakes, their feet or a passing donkey. I had to shell out in order to be de-snaked. I only wish I knew useful Arabic phrases like “We need to get these M#F%# snakes off my M#%F# neck”.
The souks are tough to describe. Imagine the narrowest streets, maybe 4-5 meters wide, with canopies two stories up spanning the gap and making a cool dark gloom. Then imagine that every possible inch of wall is taken up by small shops, each perhaps two or three meters across, with materials for sale piled up everywhere in vast stacks, bolts, reams and bundles: chess boards, walking canes, hookahs, daggers, brass kettles, teapots, rugs, pashimas, scarves, jewelery, shoes. Then imagine the streets are crammed with masses of people walking, including tourists, shopkeepers, small boys, teenage girls, fashionable women in western outfits, fashionable women in headscarves, veils, sunglasses and long sleeve dresses and gloves.
The only contrast to this is the carpet stores, which have broad open white tile floors, which are soon covered in beautiful carpets.
Throughout all of this there are bicycles, motorbikes and even small cars and trucks whipping along, tootling horns and trying not to kill anyone. It became commonplace, almost un-concerning to have a motorcycle brush past us. Near misses that would cause screaming matches in Canada were normal and not worthy of comment. We were once nearly flattened by a woman in a scarf, kerchief, sunglasses, long-sleeve dress and leopard print gloves riding a motorcycle.
As all of this chaos passes by, the shopkeepers would try to lure us into their shops - “Hello, have a look at my shop, come inside, there is so much more to see, what are you looking for, rugs?” while the guides would sidle up and say “Hello, how are you? …. Are you looking for the square? I can show you, where you want to go”. They could be amazingly persistent conversationalists, responding to each reply of “no, we’re fine” with a new variation of what we might want from them, or where were we from, or where were we going”. It wasn’t annoying, it was almost an art form.
Attacklad is from Canada. Canadians really don’t bargain much. (Here’s a comic to illustrate how he bargains) The concept of looking disinterested escapes him completely. If he sees something he likes, he yells out to me from 6 inches away in a voice meant for finding lost hikers or hog calling, something like “FEZZES!”. From all around us come voices of shopkeepers in the souk saying “Fez”, “Fez”, “Here, you look at fez, very nice”, “Your son, he is a gentleman, I’ll make you a good deal”. Then the fez salespeople converge on us from all directions and we run away. It was like a zombie movie.
We’d start to bargain for something- they say “400 dirham”, I’d look shocked and say “100 dirham”. Attacklad would say, “Jeez Dad!”. They say 300, and **Attacklad ** would a sort of shrug, like, “hey, that’s a good price, you’re not going to do much better than that.” I’d say “200”. They’d say “275”. I say, “No, thank you”, and start to walk away. Attacklad would stand there and say, “Dad, where are you going?”. When the deal is done, and I’ve paid more than I should, he looked at me and said “I drive a hard bargain”.
Sometimes I think he’s working for the other team.
I did manage to expose him to some cultural aspects of Morocco, notably some of the beautiful mosques and gardens. I’m just glad that Imp of the Perverse didn’t come. She’s not good with heat or crowds.