29 October 2012

Lahcen, Arabic Souk, Berber Souk, Carpets and honey.

Lahcen, our friendly local

We met up with Lahcen in the morning, for a proper tour of the city.  Our first stop was the Arabic Souk.  There are two main markets in the city, and this is the smaller one.  It is on a side street, just off where we were staying.  As it is still festival time, not many stalls were open.  Most of the ones that were, sold fresh produce.  The garbage collectors had not been through in the last few days, and it was starting to pile up.  There was rotten food mixed in with numberous bags that had been used to package clothes from china, and broken souvenirs, all swept into large piles.
Further into the marketplace, there was a couple of stalls open for tourists.  In one of these, Lahcen explained the difference between berber, touareg, arabic and african pottery.  Mainly the difference in glazes and patterns.  There were plenty of fine colours, and pieces, but here is not the place to buy them.  Apparently Fez is where the best pottery is.  Like all good markets,there were pieces from Fez here, but also a lot of local craft.

The Souk in Taroudant

After the Arabic souk, we crossed the road into the “Grand Souk” or berber market.  Apparently the berbers are good businessmen, and this is reflected in the stalls, and quality of goods.  Lahcen seems to be related to, or know, everyone. He greeted people in all the stalls, and we appreciated the way he fended off people trying to get us into their shops to look around.  We did assume that there would be a catch somewhere, and kept our eyes open for the spice stall, or carpet shop that he would expect us to buy something in.  Pleasantly this did not happen.  We did get taken into a silver shop, where there was a pleasant old man that showed us the different types of jewelry and even found a pair of rings for us that he presented as a gift to us as we left.  Wanting a photo, we posed together, and I only found out that his hand made it to a very inappropriate spot on Anna afterwards.  We probably should have said something, but were leaving anyway.  On going into another silver shop, run by the old mans relatives, we were shown more pieces, but not as a sales pitch, more as an educational exercise.  Here we were invited to have real saffron tea, which was very good, and hear about making the jewelry.  It is a family tradition, and a lot of the designs go back hundreds of years.  However we did wonder about the Nike ring?!

Of course we had to stop at another carpet shop.

At the end of the market, we did get taken into a carpet shop.  The people here did not seem to know Lahcen, and again, we had many carpets rolled out before us.  The differences explained, and as we reached the end of the different types of carpets, we made it clear we were not buying.  “No problem!  As we remove them, select possibles and nots.”   So we duly did so.  At the end there were four or five carpets we thought were particularly good.  “Buy two and we will give you a good price”  No, we always said we were just looking, not buying.  At this stage Lahcen stepped in and managed to extract us with good graces all around.

Our last stop in the market was a local honey salesman.  On finding out we had not tried Moroccan honey, the man broke out the bread and a few different types of honey to sample.  As we had not had any breakfast or lunch, this was fantastic, and only helped to enhance the flavour of the honey.  He also had something like peanut butter that was a honey / almond mix.  It was very good, and apparently a local staple.  There were large drums of the mix at the back of the shop.

From the end of the souk we went to look at the main square again, along with the outside of the palace, however after the long day yesterday, I did not have the energy to continue, and we decided to head back to the hotel.  Having a good feeling about Lahcen, we took him up on his offer to take us out to the villages tomorrow to see local Moroccan life.  It should be interesting.

AA

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