A final essay from our scholarship winner, Isaiah DuPree, an International Relations Major and Arabic Minor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Isaiah studied with AMIDEAST in Morocco during the 2013-2014 academic year. In this essay, he describes adventures in the Moroccan marketplace, locally known as the souq.
In Morocco, the main souqs are usually located in the medina, or the center of the city. I try to visit the souq in Rabat at least once a week if not more. It is the epitome of organized chaos, people heading in every direction possible, men and women yelling out the prices of their goods, incense burning, fruit shops, tannery’s, the souq is truly an experience.
Last Friday I found myself walking through the souq looking for fermented lemons a friend of mine wanted in Madrid. At first, as usual when I am looking for something in the souq, I couldn’t find them. I never get discouraged though, failing to find what I’m looking for represents the opportunity to explore and look simultaneously, a way to get what you need and make friends along the way.
During my escapades, I stumbled upon a spice/herbs shop that was possibly the biggest I had seen in the souq. Believing they may have what I’m looking for, I stopped to talk to the young man at the cash register. After he brought me everything lemon related besides what I was looking for, we laughed, and began to talk.
At this point most of his family and friends had gathered around the cash register, curious about the foreigner who had came in questioning in broken French and Darija. After I convinced them I wasn’t a WWE wrestler, the young man at the cash register, whose name was Anas, wanted to show me the chameleons he had collected and wanted to sell.
At first he and his family thought I would be intimidated by the small lizards, but after owning two snakes there aren’t many reptiles I can’t handle.
After hanging out with Anas, his friends, and his family for half an hour or so, I decided it was best that I move on to get what I was looking for. As I bid them goodbye (which in Morocco can take up to ten minutes) I bought some spices. What was once 45 dirham for a kilo became 30. I smiled and thanked him kindly, and he bid me a ‘Bis’Ha’ (meaning good health but in context sort of means ‘enjoy’).
Morocco is a country filled with incredibly gracious people. When they come upon a foreigner who cares about meeting the people as much as seeing the sights, they are obviously flattered. To some, an eventful day of befriending and haggling, but to me, just another day in the souqs of Morocco.