I like shopping as much as the next girl. Unlike most however it’s not a happy event for me, I don’t use it for boyfriend punishment, and I don’t need girlfriends’ advice for it. Or anyone’s advice in fact, least of all from a sales person. Growing up in Germany, when at least back in the day there was no such thing as commission, a young girl learned quickly that sales people are not your friends. They are rather gods and goddesses, towering over their counters, hording the sizes a mere mortal could actually fit in to, and woe to whom who would actually dare to approach them with a timid Excuse me please…. Excused one never was. Scorned, looked up and down, and in best case simply ignored. Their behaviour taught me early to make it on my own in the shopping world.
Can you imagine my horror fresh off the boat and into a New York shop only to be greeted by a lot of very shiny smiles? Too sweet voices asking me how I was and how they could possibly, please, desperately help me with something. Some even dared to touch my arm in order to steer me towards a shelf or, if I was already holding a garment, towards the cash register. It took me a while to understand that most sales people in the States make a large portion of their income through commissions, but even once I knew that, it didn’t help. Worst of all was Victoria’s Secret. I actually wondered if they had their employees attend seminars how to fake smile, shrill the voice, and become an extra scary person adorned with a pink bow?
The combination of both worlds, being ignored and being jumped by sales people, has left me with a guerrilla shopping approach of I shop fast, I shop alone, I shop in silence. This has served me well so far. A few extreme situations have called for more desperate measures and I took the honest approach of explaining to the especially annoying salesmen that they would make more money of me by just leaving me alone. That works like a charm every time and I don’t really care whether they consider me a bitch or not, at least they make money and I don’t have to leave the shop empty handed.
Unfortunately all strategies failed me in Marrakech. That might explain why I didn’t have to pay overweight charges on my luggage, which could be considered a good thing.
Issam, our group leader had already advised us to do our shopping in Essouira as it would be much more relaxed and literally a lot cooler. I didn’t want to listen. I never do. After a morning spent wandering the streets and shops, I hadn’t nearly crossed half off my list, but my enthusiasm was spent and I took a nap instead. Yes, you read correctly: I was on holiday, it was broad daylight, there was stuff left to buy in the shops, and there I went to bed instead. Mind you the riad we stayed in was particularly beautiful, so I guess one could book the nap as sociological enterprise and not a waste of precious holiday time. And after all I had an extra day for all last minute presents, including those for myself, in Marrakech.
A rookie error.
I immediately knew once we arrived I only sort of liked Marrakech. Djemaa el Fna, the main square, was loud, busy, and had people coming at you with monkeys, snakes, horse carriages, and scooters from all directions (It’s apparently one of the busiest squares in the world according to Wikipedia, so it wasn’t just me, being too touchy-feely with my assessment.) Our real life experience dinner at the food stalls was nonetheless even to my liking and with the prospect of midnight ice cream I also didn’t mind a little detour through the souks on our way home. That was till we actually got there. I am a bit at a loss how to describe how horrible it was. Maybe try to understand how much Victoria’s Secret scares me and then imagine the souks of Marrakech as a Victoria’s Secret on Red Bull. Red Bull with acid. Red Bull with acid and techno music playing (fyi: I hate techno!). Once you have this mental image, you will understand how daunting the prospect was to me to finish my holiday shopping there. I should have taken a page from Jen’s playbook. Over ice cream later her face was just glowing, conjuring dreams of Sex and The City II with the prospect of having an entire day and a half to frolic through the shops. I don’t think I have ever seen a person that excited. I certainly couldn’t share the sentiment, but after her lost luggage debacle she really deserved a money-spending-frenzy-treat.
The next day was spent with sightseeing and chilling by the pool, but by the time Sunday came around I had run out of options. I gathered all optimism I could find, my walking shoes, and a shopping list. I shouldn’t have. I should have joined Andrew at the Sky Bar with some topless-by-default French girls and a six-pack of overpriced beer. Or taken another nap in my Barbie room. Or have a snake charmer charm me. Anything else really.
Please come inside!
Want to buy some shoes?
Please come inside!
Want to buy a bag?
Come, come! Look, lady!
Want to buy some jewellery?
Look, lady! Smile, Miss, you must smile! - He got lucky not to get smacked in the face by me to wipe his smile off.
You ask the valid question how I could manage not to buy anything at all amongst 5000 stalls? I’m still not sure how that was possible. My money simply refused to leave my wallet, my feet refused to enter any shop, and explaining to them that they needed to rather leave me alone in order to make a sale, was just not in our common vocabulary.
I had lasted only two hours before I emerged empty handed and exhausted in a part of town I had never been. Lost is a place too and I was happy to be alive for the time being, but I also felt defeated. I had shopped for a living for years and now I couldn’t even get a few measly souvenirs? It was then I decided to recall my inner troops and went back to the hotel for a strengthening nap and a reenergizing shower. I would regroup at dawn.
Refreshed and refocused I put on my sternest look, grabbed my much reduced shopping list, and went off to conquer the souks again. This time I would take no prisoners. Within my allocated time I managed to get two jars of kohl and little silver boxes to keep it in, haggled the price of a couple of antique pillow cases down to a third, and finally gave up on the idea of finding any type of appropriate gift for 10 year old boy as souks don’t sell Pokemon & Co. I was content and for everything else there was duty free. So I dragged my parcels up onto the roof of Café de France just in time for sunset. From here I could finally see what Jen saw – the beauty of the souks, so lovely and so enticing when far, far away…
P.S. And this is why you didn’t get a present from Morocco. Maybe next time, I promise I will practise on Greenmarket Square!