Omar’s Fox (The Art of Bartering)
Sam is sitting across the room, and he’d like me to tell you that the Medina is a scary place. I wouldn’t have started with that. But I see where he’s coming from. The Medina is the old city: the part of the city the French cordoned off while they were in charge for the native population to stay. Fez’s is the largest pedestrian space in the world. Try to imagine a medieval city from a Disney movie, with better food and more cats and everything you could ever want to (and a lot you don’t). Once you find the thing you want (it’ll take you a while, the place is endless and there’s a lot to stop and look lost at), you can’t get it without bartering.
Personally, this was new to me. I’m very good at reading price tags. They don’t have those. They have people debate with. You point at things and say “combien?” or “how much?” or look enthusiastic and confused, and they start a conversation. They say you should be able to get to half the first price they give you, but I keep imagining what it would be like if I went into Target and was like,
“This shirt? This shirt you say is $24.99? I’ll give you $13.”
I’m gonna be cured of manners by the time I leave. At least where shopping is concerned.
This kind of thinking is what got us (Sam, Grayson and I) involved with Omar. Omar’s this kind of jocular dude with a mustache. He’s an herbalist. He speaks four languages and has ten brothers and knows how to cure cancer. All you need is argan oil and maybe a stuffed fox. He didn’t say what the fox was for, but it was prominent. I can tell you all this because we spent over an hour in this guy’s shop, and between that and the restaurant he deposited us on top of (not in. He walked us all the way to the roof; there was no escape), we spent 280 dirham (moroccan money, around 1/9 of a dollar) of the 300 we had. But we didn’t get any Viagra. I really hope we can get the picture up of the Viagra.
That’s not as bad as what happened to Maxwell. Max (and Olivia and Izzy) got Abdul, the leather jacket salesman. Abdul said they were very lucky to meet him. Max has come to doubt that. That crowd took a taxi to the opposite side of the Medina to see the Chouwara Tannery, the largest in Africa, and it was there that they met Abdul. Abdul works at the tannery, and comes from a long line of tanners. Abdul almost sold Max a sick leather jacket. For 2,800 dirham (it was gonna be more, but Max reminded him of his daughter). Max didn’t have it, so Abdul came back to the riat (hotel, but much, much better) with his credit card scanner.
Now we know why “The Art of Bargaining” is an option for the independent study.