A Haggling Dance in the Souqs of Marrakech

photo: The Visual Explorer / Shutterstock.com

The crowds pushed us along, and every now and again a hoot from behind would make everyone move to the side as a motorbike snaked its way past. A clanging bell indicated a donkey and cart were coming through. Bags, belts, shoes, carpets, and wooden handicrafts were everywhere to see. The smell of spices hung in the air and outside every shop sat a man waiting to pounce.

“Hello,” one man boomed. He sat outside a stall peddling shoes. “I have good bargains here. I give best price! Look inside…come!”

Our eyes met for half a second and he jumped up, beckoning us towards his store. “Come in! See my quality footwear!”

We ignored him and walked on.

At a leather bag store, we decided to stop. Angela quickly spotted something she liked. The proprietor grinned a happy grin when she asked to feel it.

“This is quality leather product,” he said, getting it down with his hook. “Very high quality, made only from finest leather.”

Angela felt the leather and turned the bag over in her hand. “Yes, it’s nice.”

The man flashed dollar symbols in his eyes. “Yes, very nice!” He was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

“How much?” Angela asked.

The man shrugged and looked coy. “Madam, you give me fair price!”

Angela looked at me. I regarded the bag and decided to offer him a pathetically low amount just to see what he would do. “One hundred dirham,” I said, about eight pounds.

The man’s look of utter shock confirmed that the game was on, as did the uproarious laughter that followed. “One hundred dirham would not even buy a piece of rough leather! This bag is worth over six hundred dirham! But…because today has been slow day, I will sell it to you for five hundred. That is best price!”

Angela didn’t say anything and so he looked at me to see what I thought about his offer. To me, £40 for a bag seemed a bit steep so I shook my head.

The man furrowed his brow and raised his palms upwards. “But five hundred dirham is best price! The leather is best quality. Please feel it, sir!”

“No thanks,” I said, playing my part in this well-rehearsed haggling dance. “Come on,” I said to Angela. “Let’s try somewhere else.”

Angela nodded and handed the bag to the man, but of course he refused to accept it. “Okay, four hundred dirham,” he said. “That is final price.”

Angela looked at me. I could tell she thought it was a fair price.

“No, it’s too much,” I said. I took the bag from Angela's hand and placed it on a nearby table. As we turned tail the man spoke again. “Okay please stop! Offer fair price! Remember, I am a humble shop keeper with children to feed!”

“One hundred and fifty dirham,” I stated, looking the man in the eye.

“Three hundred and fifty!” he countered.

I shook my head. “Two hundred.”

“Please, sir!” the man wailed, picking up the bag again. “The leather alone is worth more than two hundred dirham! I will lose money! The bag is yours for three hundred dirham!”

I shook my head and led Angela out of the shop. The man followed us out. “Okay, wait! Two hundred and eighty dirham.”

“Two hundred,” I stated again.

“Please, sir! I cannot sell the bag for such a low price. My children will starve! Meet me half way, and pay two hundred and forty.”

“Two hundred and ten.”

“Two hundred and thirty.”

We shook hands on two hundred and twenty dirham. A fine dance it had been.

If you have enjoyed reading this, then you might want to read the whole book. It's called Flashpacking Through Africa available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.



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