Bartering like a Berber: Morocco is my Mecca

by Jo Northey (Australia)

Making a local connection Morocco


"In Morocco, my friend, nothing has fixed price!" People are wrong to assume that the joy of life comes solely from human relationships, it's all around in anything you can experience. An interesting world comes not to those that wait, but to those that step forward into unfamiliar territory and try. I've been to many great souks of the world, from the Middle East to Africa, but nothing prepares you for Morocco’s persistence, which intimidates the uninitiated. You have to allow for things to happen in life, mostly to yourself, so the trick is to embrace the experience, make some low cost mistakes, and try your hand at bargaining with the best in the world. Ask anyone that knows me, I have no shame in asking for cheaper or discounted prices, in this respect Morocco is my Mecca. I cross the medina towards the less popular alleyways, to see the local women yell and scream at the store keepers... this is the place for me. If you want good food, eat where the locals eat. If you want a good deal, shop where the locals shop. They are under no obligation to sell it to you, and they won't sell at a loss, so why not make a sport of it and have some fun. So, I present to you JoJo's rules for sparing with the locals; - Get your blood sugar up before diving in. - Have an idea of what it is worth here (not back home). Know what your limit is and where to draw the line. - Always learn a few Arabic phrases to engage them with, it is courteous and will get you far. - Know that they have an arsenal of sales tactics up their Djellaba sleeve, so leave your emotions at the medina gate and never fall for the peasant talk "I need to feed my kids/family/village/camel/goat". I repeat, they will never sell at a loss. - These guys are masters at getting you to buy things you didn't know you wanted, but can't live without, so don't go buying the first item you find, use that as an experience to gauge value, and take this knowledge into your next negotiation - There will always be a few that refuse to budge, waiting for the next pasty white foreigner, so shake their hand, tell them "Shukran" for their time, and go to the next shop. In fact they will likely chase you up the street/alleyway shouting please of "oaha, oaha!" (Ok, ok!) Many a time I've heard the odd profanity with a shaking clenched fist, and been told that I "am like Berber woman" (Berber woman are renown for being tight with their money). For me, it's the ultimate compliment for a woman traveller in Morocco.