susys running away to sea

"The rigors (sic) of an expeditionary lifestyle"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Souk it and see

We're a pair of tourists - we have a guide book.

We go into the nearby souk - actually, the most impenetrable maze of adjoining souks. I guess once upon a time they were separate specialist markets, but over the years, and with the last century's influx of dissolute hippy-ish tourists, they've now become a massive souvenir-fest of small stalls crammed with tourist tat. It's great fun! But don't hesitate near a stall or catch anyone's eye - or you're lost! It's an invitation to treat, and you're lucky if you escape with your purse unmolested. Everyone is very persistent, but it's not offensive - we're most people's only source of income, after all, so who can blame a persuasive would-be seller? Shades of stout-hearted no-nonsense British empire women travellers wash through my head... I've read too many old travel books, I think.

How lucky I am to have S with me - it turns out he's a master bargainer. None of that rather nasty beat the swindling natives down arrogance - oh no - he's infinitely polite, and rather self-effacing. My favourite expression of his - now learnt by heart - is 'I don't want to embarrass you with my very low offer ...' so no-one loses face. Oh, maybe I should add here - S has lived and worked in Taiwan and China, speaks Chinese, has a masters in some area of Oriental studies and understands all about losing face. I'm in an excellent position - I can fade into the background and watch. A woman, even a foreign woman, in a relaxed Muslim country like this, isn't expected to take part in negotiations, unless she wants to - and I'm a natural spectator.

S buys a pair of red flip flops for me - look, free (ha!), hand made, Berber, leather - they've sorted out the keywords that will appeal - never mind they're as mass-produced as anything we now buy from China... I'm wearing them as I type this - and I look down, as the red dyes my feet, and at the sparkly decoration on the thongs - pretty! He buys a belt for himself. There are lots of leather goods, metal work, coloured glass lamps, carpets (of course), and a small sadness creeps and seeps - we can buy most of these things in the UK - the novelty is thinner ...

Oh we're lost! Sometimes, as we wander all through the afternoon, I recognise various stalls - the red pottery one, the large 'antique' metalwares with S's favourite huge copper bath outside - the sweets and patisseries stall covered in wasps.. (I buy a bag of mixed small pastries - wasps don't bother me - and munch a few - sooooooo sweet, my teeth cringe!) S decides we'll take a left turn every time we have to chose. He's poring over his guide book, but I think he's making it up - we don't know which is north, we really just don't know where we are ...

But eventually, when our legs are really tired, even with a stop for tea a la menthe - syrupy toothpaste - at the Cafe d'Epices, we stumble out of the enless maze, and astonishingly, aren't that far from our riad.

2 Comments:

  • At 12:03 am , Blogger Raybelles/Bella said...

    Did he live in Shanghai by any chance?

     
  • At 8:42 am , Blogger susyrosy said...

    beijing, I think, but I met a couple on my last night who've lived there - be writing about it soon, but hey - a masked ball to attend tonight - so darlings! I have to spend the day getting ready!!

    xxxxx

     

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