Monday, October 13, 2014


                        RUTH’S 7 TIPS ON HOW TO BARGAIN IN MOROCCO

My father, may he rest in peace, was one of the great bargainers—an artist who entered a shop in the medina of Marrakesh or Fez, fixed on an object he wanted, & through a winding path of cajolery, teasing, charm & humor, walked out with the object … & a new friend, the vendor. Granted, my father was born in Morocco, spoke Arabic fluently, & was familiar with the ancient tradition of bargaining, but other Moroccans I watched didn’t do it nearly as well.

After carefully observing him, trying my own hand at it, & watching both experts & absolute duds, I humbly present my suggestions on how to get the most out of the bargaining experience.


  1. ENTER the medina (the market, the souk) the way you enter a casino. You know the odds are in the House's favor, & you know that eventually they will win, but you can have a wonderful time playing the game.

  1. GAME is on. As a Westerner, you are at a disadvantage: you don’t speak the language (Give yourself 20 points if you speak French or Arabic), you don’t know the rules, & you are playing against the masters, & you’ll never know if you won or lost.

  1. UNDERSTAND: price is a relative concept. There is a price for Moroccans, another for those who speak French, one for European tourists & another for Americans, one for students, & even, I'm convinced, one for blondes. There is a price if you appear interested, & another if they sense you’re wasting their time. There is a price if you charm them by getting into the spirit of the game, & another if you reveal actual knowledge about the object you want to buy. There is a price if you joke & another if you are sullen & act as if bargaining is beneath your human dignity.

  1. YOU will never know what the item originally cost. The vendor himself has probably forgotten the original price, if indeed there ever was one. The mythical price he quotes at the beginning of the transaction is pulled from the sky, a magical number to start the game.

  1. KNOW that what you pay has nothing to do with the cost of the object & everything to do with #3: who you are, how you present yourself, the experience of the game. I overheard a vendor exclaim to another—after a round of haggling with an American man that turned bitter & dark, even though the American capitulated & bought the item—“That was a bad one.”

  1. THEY have been doing this for thousands of years. You are entering their world of labyrinthine corridors, dim booths shadowed by carpets, mysterious doors & archways that lead to dark alleys. In their world, bargaining is an art that involves laughter, warmth & personal connection, & often, a glass of sweet mint tea.

  1. ENJOY the game. Carry your prize object out of the medina with a smile. Don’t compare prices at other booths. You carry not only an object, but a story, an experience. For a few moments, under North African sun or moon, you were part of an ancient tradition. Treasure that memory. It has no price.   


Kim said...

I really enjoyed this blog, Ruth! My own experiences haggling in Morocco have indeed given me stories, which remain much more valuable than the items I bought, just as you say!

Anonymous said...

This soooo reminds me of shopping in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. I looked at an item, he vendor started a conversation "where are you on etc. I am from NY and he said that he had been to NY for a dance class or something like that. I mentioned that I took Salsa lessons and this prompted him to ask to dance with me. I danced with a vendor in the middle of the Grand Bazaar!!! I had an amazing conversation with the vendor and a fun dance, and then as I left his booth. As I left his booth, another vendor that watched the exchange a few booths away, held out his hand and said "I am next". The story of dancing with a Turkish Vendor in the Grand Bazaar is with its' weight in gold to me!!!-Candice Potrafka