How to avoid rip off Morocco

Souk And Ye Shall Find

“Tea without bubbles is not tea.”

Grinned Mohammed as he poured his Royal brew of mint, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon and an entire sugar cane field into petite tea glasses. The hospitable act of drinking tea with traders in a Moroccan souk could be translated by a cynic as ‘got you hook line and sinker...there’s no escape’. So Rule No1if you’re not seriously thinking of buying in a souk decline the tea and settle on a cuppa elsewhere.

As we chatted about the origin of his metal rimmed pottery, he diverted to ask me the hackneyed question as to whether I supported Manchester United, my grimace helped the negotiation, “I know, I know” he responded, “I support Liverpool, you the same?” I smiled knowing that if I flew my true Leeds United colours he’d simply say “who?” and more importantly the price on the barrel of crockery I was about to buy would remain touristically high.

An hour later we emerged blinking into the sun flaring our nostrils at the smell of honeyed pastry. My hesitation at a patisserie window was hurried along by the Maharani whose marching Havaianas were trooping me through narrow alleyways in search of leather poufs the colour spectrum of a rainbow. Four purchases later and a belly full of mint tea, my patience well and truly frayed, she stopped and pointed open mouthed at the perfect pouf . Like a hanging basket in full bloom, its cerise leather pinged amidst the sludgy brown bags.  With laser precision the trader zoned in on her enthusiasm, caught the weariness in my eyes and calculated his profit.. My shopping stamina hit a sugar low, I was vexed and it reflected in my negotiation skills, which involved offering a ridiculously low price, throwing my hands in the air, shaking my head and walking away. His Oscar winning response produced hurt in his eyes and a quavering ‘”what are you doing to me?”

Marrakech tanneries

Rule No2 , never enthuse over a trader’s products, offer a third of the price and always walk away. A persuasive tactic which bagged a discount and importantly closed the chapter on shopping for the day. In search of respite from Marrakech's 45oC heat we settled on Cafe Chegrouni and settled in the cool tiled interior until the sun relinquished a little of its temper. Skipping past the snake charmers and medieval dentists in the world’s oldest trading square, Jma EL Fna we decided against the sheep’s eyes delicacy touted by pop up cafés to find the tanneries. Located in a quarter of the medina dedicated to tanning leather. Concrete vats of ammonia, pidgeon guano and dye, methods of treating hide from camels, cows and goats which have remained largely unchanged over the centuries. Situated toward the north periphery of the medina we struggled to locate its putrid emission, an innocent question overheard by an eavesdropping Moroccan equivalent to Scarface to find the tanneries led him to volunteer his services, “My family work there, I show you.”

The adventure continued...

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