We went to Marrakech based on the recommendation of a woman we met in Madrid, who grew up in Morocco. Visiting there is roughly equivalent to visiting Mexico from the US – it´s a whole different world. It felt like everyone was
doing their best to survive, and often that meant trying to separate us from our cash.
Our taxi was unable to drive us all the way to our hotel because there´s no road for cars. The hotel manager met us and then led us through a maze of narrow walkways, flanked on both sides by reddish stone vertical building walls rising 3-4 stories, to the hotel. Actually, the hotel is a riad, an old family home with a courtyard, orange tree and water feature in the center. The first thing we did after dropping our bags was to go out and practice walking to our hotel from several directions – we felt like rats learning a maze. A GPS was not much help because of the canyon wall-like buildings. In the narrow streets, there were guys standing around smoking cigarettes, a fellow repairing pots and pans, motor bikes zooming through,
men pushing baggage carts made from old motorcycle wheels, women sitting on the ground with children, begging, women walking in their habibs – covered entirely, lots of cats, donkey carts, a cacophony of sounds. Smells of food, spices, sewage, rot, mold and animals. And people selling everything possible. One passageway was big enough for a car so it was called a road. Lots of shops and restaurants bordered it. This road led to the town square.
The main central plaza is a substantial open space paved with brick. A huge Mosque tower is on one side, and a smaller one on the other. 5 times a day the call to prayers is heard from these towers in a way that almost seems
like they´re competing. The square was full of people, people walking through, and people trying to sell stuff. Lots of kiosks were selling what appeared to be clams, but turned out to be snails like our garden variety. We bought a little bowl of them to try them out, but they were not particularly tasty. Other guys were selling oranges and orange juice. Some women were selling wool hats. Dan was cold so he bought one for the equivalent of a dollar (later a tourist told Dan that his hat looked like a tea cozy). We
paid a visit to the local snake charmers and hade the obligatory photograph taken. The cobras on the ground did appear to listen to the snake charmers’ music, as they turned their heads in its direction. A 21 second video is here.
Marrakech sales tactics are over-the-top aggressive. One popular tactic to draw you into a shop is when the store keeper holds out
one of his/her products in their hand and asks you “What´s the name of this in English?” You don’t want to answer this question unless you’re ready for a hard core sales pitch.
Another tactic is to tell you you must see the Berber tanneries today because the Berbers are only here today. This is where you get handed off to a guy, and then another and another, and each one takes you down more little roads, so you are lost, and need the
guide. And eventually you are entering a smelly tannery to look at the vats of liquid the hides are cured in. And then you are led into the shop where the carpets and leather goods and “antiques” are – e.g. a 70 year old tray (hmmm… and it was only $1,000!) Of course, it’s the pressure sell. All the selling is geared to “Madam”, as they think the woman controls what gets purchased. If you buy something, you never really get a good bargain, unless you know the general prices and negotiate well!
We found this aggressive marketing interesting. Why is it so much more aggressive than the marketing we are used to? What would happen if someone tried this aggressive approach at home? Might they sell more? If we
think of survival of the fittest, and this marketing has evolved over thousands of years, might it represent the optimal balance between passive and aggressive, though one friend pointed out that the aggressive approach may be best only when the salesman never expects to see the potential customer again.
We did see some vendors who had come up with some creative items to sell. Here are a few photos. Below that you’ll find a slide show of our favorite photos from Morocco.
Other photos from Morocco