Marrakech Day 1: Commerce

Bab Taghzout at night (taken by Mr Libraryman)


I have never been anywhere as alive with commerce as Marrakech. Almost as soon as we left our Riad P’tit Habibi, on a sleepy residential street just north of Bab Taghzout, we passed a man in a tiny room whose doors folded out to reveal a brightly painted display of savon noir and argan oil – the man himself was sanding down a very small table. Next, we passed a slender teenager selling spiky green fruit in the shade of an arch. Then beggars outside the courtyard of Zaouia Sidi Bel Abbès (virtually the only beggars we saw all day, and all of them ill or wounded in some way), then down the Rue de Bab Tagzhout, were there were fruit stands in the road and beside the road, and a different business in every doorway – tailors of all sorts,  moped repairs, a man winding purple thread which ran through hooks along the wall for perhaps fifty feet, someone sitting at a makeshift podium made of cigarette boxes (was he selling cigarettes? I have no idea). There were people in rooms full of mysterious objects, with blue plastic tables out front.

Everyone had a business, and no-one had agglomerated – that was what seems most remarkable: nobody is merging. ‘We work for our families, not for a boss’, a Berber spice-seller told me, shortly before selling me a hundred grams of cinnamon for 80 dirham (I’d gamely talked him down from 100 dirham – he scowled theatrically and told me I must have some Berber in me, in a tome that made it clear I’d just been taken to the cleaners.