Wednesday, 5 May 2010
A Tale of Marrakech, Shopping
Yesterday we spent the afternoon in Marrakech where the temperature reached up to 33ºC. The city was surprisingly quiet and relaxed as if exhausted from the vast herds of tourists it has welcomed and entertained these last two months with April being high season. Our mission was to find several gifts for friends and family back home whom we’ll be visiting in a few days.
Marrakech is heaven for shoppers and if you enjoy bargaining you’ll find excellent challenges as well! The variety of items for sale is endless and the same applies for the variety of prices. Stunningly beautiful handcraft decorates the many glamorous lifestyle boutiques where it is sold expensively with truths and more often untruths about its origin or its creation. The beauty of the item itself is not sufficient, trendy referrals such as ‘vintage’ are often used to justify the exorbitant prices and the only available tool for the unaware buyer is common sense. Most of what you see is actually fabricated in cramped workshops and produced in high quantities.
The most challenging place is definitely the souk in the old medina of the city with an overwhelming variety of goodies for sale. It is a must see part of Marrakech, a unique little world, for the outsider physically accessible but impossible to really penetrate. Nowadays we only enter the souk at lunchtime when the crowds are eating lunch and the quietness doesn’t disclose the slightest hint of the confusion about to start within a few hours. The normally persistent sellers wearily observe the passers by as they digest their lunch in easy poses in the back of their small shops. Believe me, it is the best time to ask their prices, when they seem almost careless to haggle.
But a visit to the souk at a time when it is bustling with activity is a worthwhile experience. If you can take your eyes of the colourful creations in the shops, restrain yourself from wanting and buying, the shadow world of the souk may become visible. The cunning commission hunters will suddenly stand out as if spotlighted, no longer invisible companions of the unaware shoppers. Watch the sellers as they assess potential customers from a distance. Become aware of the Arabic trading world, notice the cart pullers swiftly pulling heavy loads through the crowds delivering to and from the workshops. Observe how this selling machine works flawlessly amidst the apparent chaos.
More about Marrakech