I recently got back from Marrakech, where my friend and her hubby chose to tie the knot. It was an awesome wedding. The ceremony and reception were out of this world and my roomies were greater than great!
That said, Marrakech, I have a bone to pick with you.
Long before I reached the city’s shores, I’d heard and answered the call of its famous Medina. I couldn’t wait to explore the souk (market). Who cares about museums, smelly camel rides and the YSL garden when there is a souk that supposedly sells stunning kaftans, magic dresses and an assortment of real leather goods?!
My first foray into the Medina was at night for the pre-wedding dinner party. The entire medina is walled in and somewhat reminiscent of a fortified city. If you’ve watched Disney’s Aladdin, you have an idea of what the streets look like…the reality being a million times magnified of course. We were literally walking through a giant maze; there was no way we would have been able to retrace our steps without the help of a guide. The windy roads, twists and turns, clothes hanging out of windows, monkey handlers, snake charmers, street food, henna women…it was a circus. It was exciting in the way that new experiences are. So much so that the following day, as soon as I got out of bed and got the wedding rehearsal out of the way, I dragged my poor friend Mo to the souk (in the medina) in the scorching heat.
When you go to a market you expect to haggle. When you are a tourist in a market, you expect to Haggle. When you are a tourist in Africa coming from Europe, you expect to HAGGLE. I went ready to stretch my pounds slack. What I wasn’t ready for was aggression and racial abuse!
MEE: How much is this kaftan?
Trader: 800 Dirhams (€80).
MEE: 150 Dirhams or I go elsewhere.
Trader: Why you want pay small money for this quality cotton? GET OUT OF MY SHOP!
You should have seen the shock on our faces. After telling him off for bad behaviour, we stomped off in search of better behaved merchants.
MEE: How much is this kaftan?
Trader: 1000 Dirhams (€1000).
MEE: Next door this same kaftan is 600, why is yours so expensive?!
Trader: That one not quality, this one authentic.
MEE: Yeah, I’m sure it is. I’m not paying more than 100.
Trader: GET OUT! No money. I know, black people no money. Even me have more money than you. GET OUT!
Where the self control came from, I don’t know. I’m just glad it came. There was no point getting into a slagging match with the ignoramus. I walked away.
Next door, there was a local canteen and I poked my head in to see if they had cold water for sale.
Ignoramus: Yes, enter that one. Very cheap, you can afford. Black, no money. *spits on the ground*
If he believes himself to be better and richer than I am, who am I to argue?! Let him keep his money, I’ll keep mine. It was important to me to maintain my dignity so I carried on walking. Besides, it wouldn’t have been take on the mad man on his turf.
As we walked through the souk, shouts of ‘Black!’ ‘Chocolate!’ ‘Obama’ and ‘Rihanna!’ followed us. It was surreal I tell you. Most of them weren’t trying to be offensive and I wasn’t offended. I was just shocked and disappointed that in this day and age, that level of ignorance still exists.
In the process of HAGGLING we got shouted at and insulted so many times, my friend lost her cool and got into a heated argument with one of the traders. There was only one trader we met who treated us with the respect that every human being deserves. We sought refuge from the burning sun in his air-conditioned shop and he was so impressed with my haggling skills, he proposed to me!
I left the Medina with a couple of leather bags and candle burners but I also left a few shades darker and with a bitter taste in my mouth.
Whoever said ‘ignorance is bliss’ isn’t nearly as intelligent as I once thought.