“Eish, this thing is so daunting. Why don’t they just name their prices and we pay?” That was me when I heard about the haggling way of shopping in Morocco.
Once there, I realised how serious this was. No prices were marked on items sold at the souks (markets). Soon I learnt that not engaging in the customary bargaining process was not just disappointing to the traders, but was also a disadvantage; it meant either not buying at all or paying excessively every time.
I took the plunge on Day 9 of the tour. Our hectic schedule allowed some time for shopping, and we were in the right place; the Place Jemaa el-Fna in Marrakech, which boasts of quite a large number of souks.
Things started with my eye catching some brightly coloured crochet hat.
“120 dirhams!” shouted the trader who I-don’t-know-how, but had spotted my interest. I had already croaked a counteroffer of 60 dirhams when my daughter started pulling me away saying the hat’s colours were too bright for me. As we quickened pace walking away, the trader followed us a bit shouting: “50 dirhams! 45! 40!”
Then there was the red leather handbag that was hung right inside one of the stalls, and I swear it did “wave” at me. While drooling over it, I suddenly heard: “450 dirhams”.
And then, “Where’re you from? South Africa! Bafana Bafana! Welcome, we love South Africa!” While rambling on, the trader strapped the bag over his shoulder and then onto mine, and before I knew it, I was spinning in front of his mirror.
“200” That was me trying my luck.
“No, this is real leather, 200 too low, 350. Give me your credit card.”
“Don’t have one. Okay thanks, I can’t afford” I said as my daughter and I hastily approached the stall’s exit. Then suddenly we heard: “Sister! What is your final offer?”
I nonchalantly murmured: “250 dirhams”.
Was I surprised! The response was: “Okay Sister, I make you happy, you make me happy”. And just like that, the deal was done.
In another stall my daughter liked some turquoise jellaba (hooded wide-sleeved garment) with gold detail.
“Just try it on”, said the trader already pulling it over her head. He cajoled her to model in front of the mirror, flattering her throughout: “Looks good! Just your size! Nice!”
“How much is it?”
Instead of telling the price the trader opted for chitchat, wanting to know where we were from. Then followed the fast becoming hackneyed: “South Africa! Polite people! Bafana Bafana!”
“And how much is it?” My daughter chipped in again.
“Yoh! I love it. Unfortunately I don’t have enough money, but it’s beautiful!”
Then out of nowhere the guy swiftly pulled out a black jellaba now, also with gold detail. It was beautiful and dignified in its own way with its classy and glamourous colour combination.
To our relief, this time around he needed no coaxing. “This one is 650.”
My daughter’s beaming face said it all. When our eyes met, they locked in agreement of what would be the following flow of action.
“300”, my daughter offered.
“No, 500 better”.
Suddenly my daughter pulled a morose face as if begging me for money. I just pretended not to notice and looked the other way.
Then the scripted scene was replayed: “Okay thanks, not enough money”, she said as we dashed for the exit. Just as we were stepping out we heard: “Sister! What is your final price?”
Call me a spoilsport; because yes, I failed to supress the chuckling. The whole thing was just too funny.
Anyway, that was another deal sealed; a jellaba for 300 dirhams, both parties smiling.
Hours later, we were leaving the square when there was some yelling towards my direction: “40 dirhams! 30!” When I turned to look; there I was, again face-to-face with the brightly coloured crochet hat.