Bartering is an art. And I must say I am pretty good at ti. I have two friends in France whom I apparently embarrass when I suggest a lower price. Well, not in the grocery store or Galleries Lafayette. But from street vendors. I am polite about it. I suggest a price. They can say yes, no or give me a higher price. No big deal in my mind. But in Morocco, I ended up shopping at the Artisan store. The prices were fixed, the quality was good. And it’s what I would have ended up negotiating with no language barrier or stress.
Third world country. My high school friend kept emphasizing that to me and wanted to know my reaction. I wasn’t sure what she expected me to see. I wasn’t surprised. Maybe there are too many northern Africans in Paris? Maybe I go to too many Paris and banlieu marches and barter there? Maybe I have seen too many National Geographic and its ilk programs? I wasn’t too surprised. Noise. Donkeys. Dirt. And then places of silence and calm. Mercedes. Pristine.
What did surprise me was the toilets. Now when I was 10 we visited France. And I clearly recall the pit toilets. The hole in the floor that you squatted over. And my mom always carrying Kleenex. I’ve still seen a few here and there since living here. But on the morning of the leather workshop, I had a sudden need for a bathroom. The Marrakech public toilets were directly across the street. There are all these open stalls. I have my Kleenex stuffed in my pockets. The guy in charge comes over to me for my 50 cents which I give him but he signals me to wait. He walks over to a storage area, gets a roll of toilet paper, hands it to me and walks me to a stall with a door on it which he unlocks and waves me in.
So Europeans get their own toilet.
Politics are interesting. I recall that after/during the Arab Spring, the king here made some changes to mollify his population. More involvement of the people. But when you come down to it, after all the changes, the king seems to have the final say. And I understand it is against the law to speak poorly of him. That made conversations interesting. One person seemed to be genuinely pleased with the king and what he was doing. Another was more critical. And didn’t seem to look over his shoulder to see who might be listening. The complimentary one told me stories of secret police everywhere… Clearly, the king is massively wealthy. And most of his subjects are not. The future will be interesting. Especially because women seem to be speaking out and becoming more and more educated.