I visited Morocco on a golf junket in 2000, and although my companions and I spent a lot of our time playing golf, we did other stuff, too.
We did a fair amount of nosing around in the Jamaa el Fnaa, Marrakech's huge central square and outdoor marketplace, just outside the front door of our hotel. (You can see both the square and the hotel in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much.")
In the square, for a few pennies, you could have your photograph taken with a large snake draped over your shoulders, and then, for a few dollars, have the snake (now slowly wrapping itself around your neck) removed.
Most guidebooks say that the prices in Moroccan markets are highly negotiable, and that tourists should haggle aggressively. I dutifully bargained a little at one vendor's stall—and bought my son a key chain attached to a chunk of plastic in which a scorpion had been embedded—but I hated feeling that I was going to the mat over a trivial sum with a man who clearly needed every dirham he could lay his hands on.
Then, suddenly, I had a conceptual breakthrough: instead of bargaining down, why not bargain up? I tried my idea first in a taxi, which I was sharing with two other sportswriters. When the driver told us that the fare was 80 dirhams (about eight dollars), I said, "No! A hundred!" He did a perfect cartoon double-take, then looked at me with deep suspicion. I said, in halting schoolboy French, "You are an excellent driver. Eighty is not enough. A hundred and ten!" He then not only laughed but also drove us all the way across a busy intersection, which he had previously seemed inclined to abandon us in the middle of. [#image: /photos/55ad7d53b01eefe207f71e7d]|||dlomarrakech.jpg|||
A little later, in a maze-like souk, I reverse-haggled over the price of a leather purse, for my daughter—"The work is so beautiful!" I said. "Your price is too low!"—and ended up with both a free second purse and an invitation to spend Ramadan with the family of the shopkeeper (I think).
To be continued.*