A combination of Google maps and intelligent guessing has so far kept us out of tight spots in cities, but this time, I miss a turn and we head right into the old part of town, where a souq is blocking the road. However, a few turns around tight bends send us back out of it and we park by a bridge and walk instead. Maroc Telecom doesn’t open until 3pm and we have an hour spare to visit the market. We buy some food and amble back. This is when we come across the Carpet Souq. Two minutes of watching it, I feel I have to leave. The way it’s run breaks my heart. Lots of people sitting and watching, and a few older guys walking around with carpets on their shoulders, calling out a price in passing. Next round, the price has sunk down, and still no-one wants the carpet. And so on. I think of the smiling Tamazirgh woman up in the hills weaving her carpet and it breaks my heart to think that this is where it might end up, being sold to the lowest bidder. It feels such a hard and exposed reality. I tug Frank by the sleeve of his Djellaba, let’s go. We walk around the building and up onto the bridge. From here, we have an overview of the market. The same guys are still walking about with their wares, sometimes stopping to unfold the carpet or blanket to show it to someone, then moving on. Frank is fascinated, so we stay and watch for a while, not really understanding how it all works. After about 5 minutes, we ask a passer-by to explain the system to us. It turns out that the guys walking around are not the producers or their family, but they are employed to display the carpets, and the price does not lower but rise – it’s like an auction. That puts an entirely different light on it. Now I want to go and watch it all at closer quarters. We go round the back to where we saw some carpet shops, and we find a guy who explains in more detail what’s happening, all the while he’s keeping an eye on what is being carried past his shop. Sometimes he gets engaged, sometimes he declines without even looking at the produce. He bought an old Djellaba that we’d seen displayed when we watched from the bridge. We ask how much it costs but instead of giving us a price he just says it’s very old and very good material. Frank tries it on. Older than my husband? I ask. Yes, much older.
For more photos of this chapter, click here
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