Morocco: Strait Into Another World
Yesterday, I went to Africa with EF College Break on the Spanish Fiesta Tour. As we crossed the Strait of Gibraltar; we entered into another world. Driving in on the bus seeing towering mountains, some with snow on them, and poor cities with people looking through our glass with envy. We were just coming to visit for a day and leave, no questions asked. For Moroccans its a different story. This county ranks as the 53rd wealthiest country in the world. Although this is not extreme poverty, Spain always lingers in the distance. Being ranked the 9th wealthiest country in the world, Spain is within view on a clear day and many cannot resist the temptation of this golden opportunity. Over 12,000 Moroccan bodies have washed up onto the shores of Spain over the years, as they try to obtain a better life elsewhere. It is a sad story, and as I look onto this country and into these peoples eyes, I see someone no different then myself and I wonder why them and not me? I could have just as easily been born here as I could have in America. I do feel as if Moroccans have great patriotism for their country and do not mind living there, but when you have a skill that could give you so much more in one place then the other, it is hard not to want to go there.
Anyways, the day continued as we arrived at the Madina (city). This was the market part of town where the streets were so narrow that you could reach from one side to another with our outstretched arms. Fruit, vegetables, chickens, cow hooves, fish, shoe salesmen, spices, toys, carpets, clothes, and so much more was sold through out the streets. Men sitting in coffee shops waiting for someone who needed the skill that they had to offer. Winding roads and tunnels were the normal passages of everyday life. Tarps and cloths were strung overhead of many of the markets and alleyways for protection from the elements. The experience was unlike anything I had ever experienced. After walking through the town for a while, we headed into a local oriental rug store. Rugs hung from the walls and the ceiling. Beautiful hand made Moroccan rugs everywhere you looked. We all headed into a room and were shown many different styles and sizes. As they were presenting them, anyone could call out “Maha” which means something along the lines of “I like it”. As they were presenting them I saw the only one that appealed to me and called out “Maha”! Shortly after that I was escorted into a room to negotiate the price. This had to be the best part of my day. I loved haggling with these people and trying to get the best price possible.
He started off at $750. I said I cannot even think about it at that price. At this point I really wasn’t truly considering getting anything I just liked the the idea of it. So I said no way and walked away, but he was persistent and followed me. He said what is wrong, this rug is handmade and silk “magic rug” which meant it was a Parisian style. He tried to prove that it was made from real and pure silk and it was not synthetic by holding a flame up to the carpet and saying it doesn’t burn. As he did this he would move the lighter back and forth fairly quickly. Obviously, if you put a flame on anything and move it back and forth it will never burn. Unless it is drenched in gasoline or something like that. So I told him to hold the flame still and put it on the rug. He said okay and just moved it over a shorter area and a lot faster. Haha, I laughed at him and said that that didn’t prove a thing and continued to walk away. Of course he followed me and tried to find a smaller more inexpensive rug. I didn’t like any of them, so I told him the only one I liked was the first one. He said “write on this piece of paper your maximum price.” I wrote $100 and he laughed and said that this rug is worth $1500. As we talked over a period of about 45 minutes, he went down to $650, then $500, then $450. He asked my new max and I said $200. He, again, was a little bit upset and appeared to take offense to this price. We told him we just don’t have much money, and his answer to that was to just put it on “the plastic” no big deal. Pay later. Haha I thought that was hilarious and told him I would still have to pay for it and that I don’t have any “plastic”. We were still going back and forth and eventually got him down to $350. At this time, our group was heading out, and we were about to leave. As his desperation grew, he said $300 and a little bottle thing sally ward liked as well. Campbell, Sally Ward and I all looked at each other and said we’re only in Morocco once and took the deal! We each paid $100 for it. We left the store and I received such a wonderful sensation! We were not in Green Hills buying an oriental rug, I had just haggled with a true
Moroccan man for a hand made rug and walked out on to the muddy and narrow streets of a north African country! Hahahah it was amazing!
Shortly after this we went into a local spice shop. A man was telling everyone what certain items were worth. I had just spent $100 dollars on a rug and I was not about to buy spices, I had my Moroccan souvenir. As the presentation was drawing to the close and everyone was either talking or purchasing their items, the main man, that was giving the presentation, walked over to me with four packs of saphron. Each one of these packs were worth 10€. He said to me while grabbing my wrist, “how about this saphron for that watch?” I was stunned and so was everyone around me. I was like I don’t think so, but as this was going on I knew that I would have to buy a new watch soon because the Velcro strap was wearing down and would not hold very well. As I bargained with him, Campbell was telling me that they were just spices and that I needed the watch. Sally Ward thought I had gone crazy or been hypnotized for even considering the offer. Andrew was also in disbelief of the situation and wanted me to do it for the sake of the story. All of them were correct if my watch was working well, but I knew it was not. After I told the man that he would have to give me a few more items for me to do it, he gave me some more spices, temple oil, and gin-zing. I said in an I can’t believe I am about to do this sort of way, “deal!” Everyone was shocked around me. Everyone started taking pictures of the salesman and myself holding the watch and the spices in the air. As of now my watch sits somewhere in Morocco and I am now in the market for a new watch. Ha ha just thinking back on it makes me laugh in disbelief.
To top my day off in Africa, we all went to ride a camel. Sounds cool right? Well it was, but when you think about riding camels you usually think about dry deserts, scorching heat, and dust blowing in your face. This was not quite what I had in mind. Our group pulled off the side of the road to a small parking lot and there sat two camels. The mountains were in the background and a green field with a small lake or it could have been a large puddle; not to mention, it was pouring down ice cold hard rain. As we all ran from bus to camel, paid one Euro and ran back to the bus, friends snapped pictures and laughed at how ridiculous this entire event was. I ended up going very last, right after Sally Ward and Campbell. I hopped on and rode this thing like I was in a rodeo. I had to make the 30 second ride as fun as possible, cause you never know when you will be back on top of a camel. Even though it was a short ride the experience was great. The camel was huge. So when he stood up you felt like you were 5 feet higher than any horse. Once my ride was done I, for some reason, decided to stand on top of the saddle with my arms streched out and then jump off the saddle to the ground! Then the guy tried to charge me more money for jumping off, but I just paid him the normal rate and ran out of the rain and on to the bus. It was quite a crazy day in Morocco.