I’ve never felt so happy reaching into the cupboard for a breakfast bowl. It’s not just because these gorgeous bowl are saturated with intense, beautifully rich colours, decorated with quirky fish doodles and finished off with a sprinkling of stars (I love stars). It’s not even the prospect of granola, swimming in ice cold milk, that makes me feel so good. It’s how I came by the bowls that makes me feel so flippin’ joyful.
For those of you that don’t know, I just got back from climbing Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. Why? Because a series of serendipitous events left me in doubt it was the right thing to do.
Its been my dream for as long as I can remember to visit Marrakech so the offer of a trek up the Atlas Mountains with a day either side in Marrakech seemed just the ticket. I was more focused on the colours, the spices, the city and the souks than the summit. Then I met the mountain and it changed everything.
But let’s get back to the bowls. After returning from the mountain a few of us went into the souks to have a look around. I bought a hat, another one. It’s the Berber equivalent of a beanie and I paid 50 dirhams (or dib-dabs as we like to call them ) That’s around a fiver. We wandered through narrow streets marvelling at the brass lanterns and the many intricate, colourful rugs. We laughed at the funny slippers with curly toes and ducked and dived out of the way of the scooters, mopeds and strange motorbikes that careered down the narrow streets.
Then we happened upon a very colourful crockery stall packed to the brim with cups, plates, bowls and tagines. Lit up in the night who could resist? Well Peter, my new travelling friend, couldn’t. He was like a moth to a flame, captivated by a selection of enormous swirly plates.The shopkeeper knew he had him and so the haggling began. While Peter was being so beautifully fleeced I began to browse a selection of bowls. I wasn’t particularly interested in buying bowls, after all, how would I get them home? But the more I looked the more I kind’ve liked them.
“I give you a good price for a bowl” said the shrewd salesman, spotting my vague interest. “Oh I’m just looking” I said with a smile. What happened next was brilliant and I can honestly say I have never laughed as much as I did that night in a crockery shop in the souks. My sides were splitting! The haggling we got involved in was hilarious. Backwards and forwards we went with more and more bowls being added. We were having the best of times and then our new friend paused for a moment. ” Let’s be serious for a moment” he said. ” We are communicating, building a relationship. I still need to make a living, make money on these pots but this time is important.” And I realised, in that moment, that these connections are priceless. The relationship I was having, the time he was giving me, not the pots, was what I was paying for. I would have given him the world at that point for bringing so much joy and laughter to my life however, there are expectations in Morocco and so the haggling continued in earnest. He even dropped the price for another smile; I was beaming.
Five beautiful bowls later he wraps them up in bubble wrap. Richard, our amazing guide, reminds me of the beanie and suggests we put it over the top to keep the bowls safe; the situation goes from the sublime to the ridiculous! Our hilarious seller decides to draw a smiley face on the package to match mine. He then puts it under his arm and walks through the shop declaring it to be a new baby. I am convulsing with laughter and see the others are too. He gives me 20 dirhams back to look after the bowls!!! I am in pieces.
http://www.morocco-guides.com if anyone fancies the trek. I highly recommend it.