Morocco – المغرب

October 2012

Thoughts following the pictures.

In my journey, I have visited Marrakech, Essaouria, Fes, and a host of other places, including Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazate, Dades, Todra Gorge and Merzouga. It is a fascinating country.  Many traditional modern conveniences are not here – in fact for most, the water is not easily drinkable.  Hygiene standards are substantially different from what I am used to.  And dentistry is not taken too seriously.  Nonetheless, if you strip away and accept the differences in culture, Morocco is enchanting.

The terrain is incredibly varied. Over the course of one 24-hour period I saw a busy city, beaches, snow-capped mountains, desert and gorges.  I ate tagines, drank tea, nibbled on dates, smelled spices. Talked, observed, listened, learned.

The people were always hospitable, often thinking I was a native Moroccan.  But of course, that ended once after our exchange of Arabic greetings, and french then ruled the day.  In contrast to the Spanish, the Moroccans that work in tourism have extraordinary language abilities.  In general, all Moroccans speak Arabic and French.  After that, many speak a third, local language, perhaps a dialect of Berber.  From there, it is common to find those fluent in English, Spanish, or even German and Japanese.

Breakfast of the traditional Moroccan pancakes (meloui), tea, orange juice, countless tagines, visits to tanneries and carpet dealers, haggling in the souks, the worst bars ever (they don’t drink much), too many bottles of water and 8 days of travel across the country, Morocco – it’s been real.

And, a comment on the negotiations.

We all could learn a thing or two from the Moroccans when it comes to sales and negotiations. They are unquestionably experts.

Simply walking through the souks or a food market, you witness firsthand the expertise of the Moroccans in a competitive situation.

They all have essentially the same goods – tagines, orange juice, fruits, trinkets. And there is a limited supply of tourist money. The salesmen instantly establish rapport, speaking French, English, Arabic, Spanish, and even German, instantly sizing you up by your appearance.  They are energetic, in your face, and overwhelming in their frenetic approach. They offer their best goods are a “good” or “democratic” price, especially for foreigners. At the same time, though, they are extremely welcoming and hospitable, often instantaneously showing you around their shop, describing in intricate detail the differences between their goods.

If you make it past one of these before getting suckered in, you have incredible willpower. But more importantly, their sale does not end. They’ll offer a discounted price for you, over 20-30 percent less of what they quoted originally. Enticing.  One time they even offered a 90% discount on a certain hat.  At times it orders on ludicrosity. (I know, not a word, but I like it.)

If you decline to buy, they shake your hand, genuinely look you in the eye, and insist that you reconsider them later.

But it does not end there, if you continue to walk away, they may briefly follow, giving one last hoorah before you go to a competitors shop. They are relentless without being overbearing, and often very tough to decline.

They are some of the best salesmen I have ever encountered – their pitch is clever, refined, and you often feel bad for not purchasing from them.  We could all learn a thing or two from them.