Sunday, 21 April 2013
Hamid is our trusted rug man in Marrakech. In a city which is not short of excellent rug shops, its easy to become baffled by where to go for a good deal on an authentic carpet.
His shop is like a secret, tucked away in an ancient riad, down an anonymous side street off Rue Riad Zitoun el Kdim (Street of the Old Olive Garden) in the Kenneria district of the ancient medina. Its central courtyard and every room is piled high with hundreds of beautiful handmade ancient and modern rugs.
Hamid doesn't like having his picture taken. A gentle and devout religious man, his sales of rugs are often interrupted by the call to prayer from his local Muezzin. He excuses himself and dashes off to the mosque to pray. We wait for him. His rugs are so beautiful and his prices so sensible that there is no point going elsewhere. All the rugs from Riad Romm'an came from his shop. He brings them personally to the house and lets you try before you buy. Once bought he promises to take them away for cleaning whenever required, for no charge, and will even exchange them for others if you fancy a change, years later.
One day while visiting his shop, a intricately detailed woven wool Djellaba is spotted hung over some rugs. Its not for sale, Hamid collects antique Djellaba's for his own pleasure. But in Moroccan culture, if a guest in your house compliments you on an object in your possession, you are obliged to offer it as a gift to the one who offered the compliment. Clearly this is a problem if you collect beautiful Djellabas. My comment of appreciation, was reluctantly responded to by Hamid with the Djellaba being offered to me as a gift. One I could not possibly accept. In the end I paid a fair price for it, still far less than it was worth. It now hangs with pride of place in the entrance hall of Riad Romm'an. A reminder of the generosity of spirit of the Moroccan people and Hamid in particular.
Posted by Scott Mackay at 07:24
Monday, 11 February 2013
"Shopping in Marrakech is dizzying to say the least and downright hallucinatory to say the most" Susan Simon - Shopping in Marrakech
Marrakech's world famous labyrinthine souks (markets) offer many delights and surprises to the adventurous. It is fascinating to spend your days wandering through the maze of passageways, even if you have no intention of making a purchase.
Unlike many other shopping experiences in the Middle East or North Africa, tourists experience very little in the way of hassle here. In 1999, the new king Mohammed VI instituted la brigade touristique - the tourist police roam the soaks in plainclothes keeping an eye out for over-zealous merchants, so hassling has just about disappeared from the souks. Instead most shopkeepers are polite and respectful to tourists.
There are some shop keepers who are so laid back, they might not even notice you are there...zzzz.
There are many different districts to the souk area of the city. These include specialist areas selling particular types of goods, including an area only selling leather goods such as handmade bags, another only metalwork such as exquisite lamps, another woodwork, or decorative objects, rugs, ethnic jewellery, embroidered linens, colourful ceramics, sequined antique shawls, gold encrusted glass-ware etc. The spice souk for example has many interesting potions on sale.
Including some dubious berber specialities.
Deeper into the souk and you may stumble upon African death masks, which for me make an interesting and collectable souvenir.
There are even some unusual and diverse ways of showing one's wares. In the clothes souk, how do you show off children's clothes when you have no space left on the shop floor?
Why not hang child mannequins from the canopy creating an efficient (if slightly disturbing) display!
All in a normal day, shopping in the souks of Marrakech...
Posted by Scott Mackay at 07:36
Monday, 21 January 2013
In Marrakech it is useful to keep your wits about you. It is impossible to spend much time in the souks before falling for some haggling technique or other. It is a sport and you will loose. Even for the seasoned Marrakchi, it is a mistake to get over confident about what to expect. However, these tricks are mostly harmless, seldom costly and should be held lightly and laughed off. That's the case with the little scam the shoe shine man likes to play.
A battered pair of worn out old shoes are useful for shuffling around the souks. They form part of the uniform of the seasoned haggler, as it is never good to look too rich or smart when trying to haggle down the price of that allegedly antique lamp or a beautiful berber rug. Downplaying your spending power is important to put the shopkeepers off the scent of those dirhams burning a hole in your pocket. However, the shoe shine man is different. He sees opportunity in those scruffy shoes.
It begins like this..."You want shoes shined?..I give you good price.", reluctantly and just for fun I casually reply, "OK then, how much?" The shoe shine man enthusiastically comes back with "50 dirhams". My default haggling response then comes into play "La shukran, ghali bezef (no thank you, too expensive)", followed by "20 dirhams". "La, La La (No, No, No)", he says shaking his head, "I give you for 40 dirhams?" I look at the ground...serious like, "OK, 25 dirhams". "30 dirhams - last price" he confidently says, smelling victory. Haggling ping pong can be time consuming and I want to be on my way, so I agree to his reduced price of 30 dirhams (approx £2.25). The frantic shoe shining commences...
It took longer than expected. The shoes looked new, too new for my liking! I handed over the 30 dirhams. A frown appears on the shoe shine man's already wrinkled face, "No" he says "the price is 60 dirhams".
I act surprised, "we agreed 30 dirhams?"
With a wry smile on his face, the shoe shine man responds "Ah, 30 dirhams each shoe..."
Posted by Scott Mackay at 07:16