Being a white girl with dark blond hair traveling with two extremely blond haired girls and a brunette is rather difficult. Especially when you are in North Africa where the average skin tone is what my skin would look like if I spent every day of my life tanning. Therefore, we made the coined the analogy that walking through the medina was equivalent to seeing Olof (from Frozen) in the medina or at the beach. We stick out.
Well, while we were in Casablanca we definitely felt the eyes of all who passed us by as well as the call from shopkeepers to check out their shops. We have gotten really good at ignoring their calls. However, there is a Moroccan hospitality that is difficult for us to avoid without offending and sometimes you want to just embrace it. This is particularly true when asking for directions. When you ask for directions in Morocco, it is normal for them to offer to walk you there to ensure that you do not get lost. However, this led to us falling into the Moroccan Shopkeeper’s Scheme.
1. Offer Directions
We were trying to find Rick’s Cafe and a man overheard us and offered to walk us there after giving us shotty directions. I am not one to accept an offer to walk me to a place from a man, I would rather walk in circles until I find it myself, but the group I was with wanted to embrace this instance of Moroccan hospitality.
2. Take to Shop
He said he wanted to show us his shop first. This is also pretty customary. Shopkeepers being nice to tourists to get them to come to there shop and buy things. Again, I would have liked to say no. I mean, how do you leave the shop without buying something? We went to the shop. It was a lovely, large shop with hand carved wooden house pieces and other very Moroccan furniture. The second room was completely dedicated to carpets and tapestries. There were carpets hanging on all of the walls, folded on shelves, and leaning against containers. The middle of the room was empty with a couple of long benches running along the wall.
3. Offer Mint Tea
The shopkeeper steered us into that room and then asked us if we wanted sugar in our tea. The drink of choice in Morocco is tea. The man would NOT take no for an answer at any stage of this despite our pleas. However, we were all intrigued to see how this would turn out. We didn’t have sugar in our mint tea, which just showed me why its normal to put sugar into your tea.
4. Get Tourists to Sit
Well, at this point we knew we were in for the long hall. He got us to sit when he gave us the tea. It had been a long day of walking so sitting felt good even though there were concerns from the don’t talk to strangers campaign ringing in my head.
5. Show Rugs
When he had us seated and drinking his tea, the shopkeeper and his team began to lay out rugs for us as he explained their origins, how it were made, and what type of hair was used. He would fill up the entire floor with overlapping rugs and then have us tell his if we liked it or to take it away and then off our preferences he would bring our more rugs and repeat. This probably took an hour. Myself and one of my friends were not going to buy a rug so did not want to humor him. However, the other two girls got into the exercise and began to pick which ones they liked.
6. Sell Rugs
They ended up buying two small rugs made in the High Atlas Mountains by hand with camel hair. They spent about $200 dollars each and probably bartered the initial price in half.
7. Sell Other Stuff
The man tried to sell us argon oil massages and other things after we finished buying the rugs, but we were stern about leaving.
Even though we definitely fell for his scheme, it was an experience I have never had before. People my age are rarely treated as legitimate buyers when we enter a store, so that a man basically got us off the street to buy rugs from him was pretty cool. Also, the whole sales pitch dynamic is much different here so it was awesome to experience it first hand. The man did end up walking us all of the way to Rick’s Cafe.