First Person - with Fiona Purnell

Fiona Purnell, Fife Free Press
Fiona Purnell, Fife Free Press

A recent trip to Morocco saw my eyes opened to a whole new world.

Having done my research before I left I knew it would be a completely different experience and a bit of a culture shock - it didn’t disappoint.

Reading online forums and the likes, some had suggested it wouldn’t be anything like Disney’s Aladdin - I hadn’t thought it would be.

But despite all my reading I honestly was unsure exactly what to expect, I’d never been to Africa, and I admit, prior to touching down at Marrakech’s Menara Airport I was more than a little apprehensive.

My first visit into the world famous main square - Djemaa El Fna - felt surreal and like walking in to a movie set.

The mixture of sights, sounds and smells were incredible.

No matter how I try to describe it, it will not do it justice and unless you’re stood in the square yourself you’ll not be able to truely appreciate it.

From the ringing bells of water sellers dressed in colourful outfits to the drumming and sound of the snake charmers’ flutes, couple that with the motorised bikes and scooters whizzing past, the call to prayer from the many mosques and it all makes for a chaotic world.

Snake charmers

As for the sights, alongside the brightly decorated orange seller carts are the snake charmers, ladies offering henna tattoos and musicians sitting under their parasols.

The culture is completely different to how things are here and the fact the country is not particularly well off is clear.

But life seems to move at a different pace in Morocco.

Although maybe that was just the hustle and bustle of the city.

There were always people coming and going, rushing around - or as best they could - on their scooters in the narrow alleys of the souks.

And it was in the souks where a distinct difference between the UK and Morocco was particularly evident.

You had to have your wits about you and be prepared to bartar for the goods you wanted to buy.

Have a price you were willing to pay, know it before you engaged with the shopkeeper, and stick to it, haggling with them until you’d reached a price you were both agreed on and happy with.

Initially the whole idea of not paying a set price for something seemed bizarre to me, yet for the Moroccans it is just a simple part of everyday life.

Deals can always be struck. It’s all about your negotiating skills and how much you can persuade them to bring it down.

There’s no denying, at times it is a real test.

But for the salesmen the whole process of haggling over a price is all part of the fun.

Haggling over price

Even when you are not the one trying to buy the goods, but you walk past another souk where someone is haggling over their wares you can see the salesmen having a banter with the customers.

At times I found the whole process a little tiring and would have been happy to chop out the five minute bargaining and pay a fixed price instead.

But it’s just not the way things are done.

At other times, usually either side of the full heat of the mid-day sun I enjoyed the to-ing and fro-ing, laughing and joking over the prices.

The bartaring really is the shopping experience.

Now had I been able to spend that little bit longer in sunny Marrakech I’m sure I could have perfected my bargaining technique that little bit more...

Just think, what if that was the way we did all our shopping in the UK?

Can you imagine heading into a High Street store and trying to negotiate with the sales assistant on the price?

Then we’d all be pros like the Moroccans and able to get some great deals.