In the first part of my Marrakesh story I talked about how busy the city is and the experience of walking around the Souks. One of the things that really stood out about Marrakech was the way in which the main square changed at night. The best time to see the main square is probably around dusk when all the locals come out and there is lots of theatre and storytelling in Arabic. This felt thoroughly authentic and not like many of the things that are put on during the day for the tourists. Everywhere you turn there are food stalls offering all kinds of things like snails and soup and the air is heavy with the smell of food and spices.
There were a few times during the holiday there I was little unsure of what was expected of me as a tourist. For example, Moroccans have a very friendly and welcoming culture and you are often greeted as you walk about. However, you can sometimes quickly find yourself in an encounter with a snake charmer and unsure suddenly what to do! It can be a little difficult to understand the intention behind all of the new encounters but for the most part we really enjoyed ourselves.
One of the best moments was when we took a two and a half hour ride outside of Marrakesh into the hills and found a rug shop where we could buy authentic woven rugs. The man who was there to help us kept pulling out lots of fabulous rugs and talked through the kinds of dyes that were used and the animal that the wool came from. It was absolutely fascinating to me and the most exciting part was when he talked about the two women who had worked on the rugs by hand. Each day, for a few hours, the two women would sit together and weave or hand embroider the rugs while chatting and telling each other stories. This process can take three months and now that I have some of these rugs for myself I can't help but wonder about all of the stories that have been woven into the fabric.
Unlike much of the market, there was no expectation to haggle because the prices are fixed as the work is produced by a cooporative. It meant that the money goes directly to the workers and I could be really proud of the rugs that we came back with. The funniest part was that the owner asked if we could pay in cash to save them losing any money to the card company but we didn't have any with us that day. Instead of this being a problem he gave as the rugs and simply asked that the driver bring back the money once we had been dropped in Marrakesh to pick up some cash. We couldn't believe how trusting this man was. What an amazing experience!