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Published: June 16th 2006
View from the top of the Guesthouse in the middle of the Medinain Chefchaouan.
THis Morocco is a funny place. Have spent almost a week here now and will be departing early tommorow morning. A great town to spend some time in relaxing, hiking or shopping.
My time has been primarily taken up with shopping. I dont think Ive been to a country where haggling and bartering over prices are such a large part of society. Sure you get a lot of bad touts, aggressive salesmen and outright bad people but it does provide you with a real avenue to meet locals.
When I got off the bus at Chefchauan I couldnt find a taxi into town. Instead walking in I bumped into a faux guide, basically someone who is looking for a little money called Said. Said is just one of the legions of unemployed in Morocco. Youths who leave school with a reasonable education but little to no prospects of finding a job. So they hang around street corners keeping busy and just doing anything to merely survive and help their families. Some turn to crime or hard drugs. Personally I prefer the ones who try to hussle a little out of tourists. Showing them the way to
Rif Mountain Breakfast
This is where everybody had breakfast each morning. From the left. Ana, Nico, Tiffany, Me, Marcus (the Viking) and Chris. Liam the kiwi is behind the camera.
something or helping them get things.
Anyway, Said took me too my hotel and asked if I wanted to see his friends carpet shop. Why not I thought. I had nothing else to do. So we went to Ibrahims shop. Ibrahim is a really interesting guy. He once spent ( years in the army way down south in the disputed Western Sahara region. Upon leaving the army he spent 10 years working for a salesman in one of the, What he called; "Palace of carpets"; That regularly pull tourists in charging big money. He had an incredible sales routine, that I have since seen again on other friends I have taken back just so they can experience it. He has the uncanny ability to talk about a range of topics in the middle of the routine. We would stop have a chat and then slowly one of us would move the subject back onto carpets.
I picked out blankets and carpets I was interested in but steadfastly refused to talked about prices. I get the impression here that you should only talk about prices if you are actually interested in paying something for it. It is considered very
Kif in the Rif
Go for a short hike in the Rif outside of Chef and it soon becomes apparent how the locals survive. And Barely survive at that.
bad form to talk prices or even worse agree on one and then back away from it. That will lose you alot of friends especially in a small town like chefchaouen.
I remember reading a bok called "Shopping for Buddhas" by Geoff Greenwald in which he goes in search of the perfect Budha to buy in Nepal. Although his experience was done over a much longer period of time I thought that here was a great way to meet locals make friends and )most importantly) mqybe end up with a couple of really nice carpets.
Over the past few days over endless cups of tea, lunch and just popping into visit him. We sat down to bargain for 3 carpets weighing 3.1 kilos. He even hqd them weighed for me. By the time we got around to talking prices I had been in his shop for 2 hours. I wont bore you with the whole bargaining routine as everyone is different. Suffice to say I paid a figure that I considered to be fair. I am very happy with my purchase and I have had loads of small kickbacks like reduced prices on a shave just cause word
got around that I was honest in my bargaining and paid a fair price. Although Im sure I could have paid less, I dont feel ripped off and that really is the point.
It is just a weired experience. In Europe, Japan or North America we dont question anything. We go into a store see the price except it and buy it. Or we dont haggle or barter and try to get a better price. I wonder what would happen if I went into a supermarket at home and asked what deal they could give me if I bought 2 of something instead of one. They would probably think I was mad. Thats an extreme example perhaps but surely in life you have to question prices, news or the action of others. If its done with humour and openness and not aggression you cant go wrong and you we leave with something much more than anything material like a carpet. Though mine are great. At the very least youll have an experience.
So question things and remember you are the buyer and with that you are given the power to ask anything you want. If the person meets
Chris and Ibrahim
Chris has just made his own carpet deal. He's better at the bargaining than me.
your questions with misdirection or hostility then dont buy their words. A true persons spirit and honesty; like Ibrahims, does come through.
SO off back to Fes tommorow. Am planning to head to a music festival Essouria near Marrakesh, anyone is welcome to join. Anybody want to buy a carpet? Youll have to bargain of course...
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