Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Married in Marrakesh

Some women wait all their lives to slip a diamond on to their left ring finger and declare to the world that they are married. It took me several troubled conversations with Berber men in the souks of Marrakesh to realise, that I didn't have to wait for a knight in shining armour to save me, I was going to save myself – a quick exchange of a ring from one hand to the other -and life became much more easier to negotiate!

                                                                 “You like you buy .."
“Democratic price sexy ...”
           “You English, Irish, Scottish, Finish …?”
              “Yes try it on … very pretty on you ...”
     “You touch you buy”

All these chants, threats, and pushy statements become a way of life when waking through the gigantic maze that is the souks in Marrakesh, and they can be easily fobbed off with “My husband will buy it for me;” “My husband must see this;” “My husband has the money.”
 Once you flash the ring and those lines, you can finally relax and enjoy the madness that surrounds you.

I had left all my Moroccan souvenir shopping until Marrakesh, but 20 minutes into my shopping spree I had to sit down, have a drink and hatch a plan. I was overwhelmed, even shopaholics will become dazed here. The souk market is bigger than any shopping centre I have ever been in, the sellers can be aggressively pushy and there are so many pretty things to look at (but don't touch – touch it and you've bought it!).
My tip: Half the asking price of the item and bargain from there, if they let you walk away – your offer was too low, usually they will bargain no matter what the price.
Once you finalise your first deal you are ready to take them all on. Confidence is important and after a few tries you will gain a general idea of prices.
Some people return home with bargains galore, but if you land home with a beautiful piece that you paid over the odds for, but enjoyed the exchange or fell in love with then it is worth the extra few dirham. (My silver jewelled tea pot is well worth the smile.)
Teapots, perfume, handbags, scarves, jewellery (but not gold, it is considered evil), pottery, glassware, spices and slippers are items you cannot leave Marrakesh without. This is a fabulous city, modern yet ancient, dazzling yet characteristic.

We stayed at Riad Reves D'orient which was impossible to find but a complete treasure, I slept like an Arabian princess and the owners were just too nice and so pretty! We ate in Djemaa el Fna, the main square which must be experienced during the night so much more than during the day. In the sunshine it is a market square with souks, but at night it is an emporium of food, song, dance, snakes and tricks! The stall we settled to dine at had the only female cook on the square and the food was delightful, perfectly cooked – with an electric atmosphere around us. This is one of those places where photographs and even cam-recorders just can't capture.
There are plenty of sights to see in the city, but for a few days trip you will be busy enough shopping, eating and staring at the madness, that your days will be plenty filled!
I would recommend staying at riad, we also spent a night in a four star hotel and it was bitterly disappointing compared to the homely riad.
You cannot holiday in Morocco without soaking up the madness of Marrakesh and for the ladies it is quite refreshing to experience married life with all the bonuses, minus the problems!

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