Continued from Chameleon Marketing

“What you look for?” the shop keeper asks?

“Spices,” we say.

He jumps up and leads us to the next shop, 15 feet away. “My family,” he says, “spices.” There is a shelf holding animals in cages. A snake, several turtles, a lizard, a falcon. Some alive, some stuffed. The falcon is alive and shivering with disembodied power. I look at it for only the time it takes to walk past it the same way I saw almost everything else that day.

Danielle and a baby Chameleon in a spice shop in Marrakech

Danielle and a baby Chameleon in a spice shop in Marrakech

It’s a spice booth, just like all the rest. But this one is in a back alley off a back alley, near a square where the shop keeper tells me was a slave trading market. He has a tattered article from an English language magazine to prove it, though now it looks like people sleep there when it is hot and huddle there when it isn’t. Danielle looks at spices, while holding the Chameleon, named Madonna, and the shopkeeper tells her about the spices. He takes down the tall 3 liter jars, says the name of the spice, holds it out, we smell, he puts it back. He does this with a dozen jars and a dozen spices. We settle on several small quantities of Tajne, a mix of 30 to 45 spices depending on who is selling it, cumin, ginger, Moroccan paprika which smells far more rich and active than any paprika we’ve ever seen.

Bulk items are sold by the gram. He weighs them out for us on an old balance, using unmarked random masses as weights: a large hex nut, a metal disc. Then we bargain for a final global price. He throws in a hand full of Tea with mint. We thank him and Danielle reluctantly gives up Madonna, who gets quickly popped into a jar with her companion, Michael Jackson.

The shopkeeper was nice and polite and honest yet we are apprehensive when he asks if we want to go upstairs to get a picture from the roof. We look at each other…

“Is free,” he says. “my family house. Is free.” So we go.

He leads us out, around the corner, past the sad falcon in a tiny cage, past the man who gave Danielle the chameleon, to a larger street around the corner and in the side door to a house / shop and up the steep colorful stairs obscured and made treacherous by hanging tapestries, trinkets and rugs. We pass through the second floor, which is a carpet shop. Our guide says something quick in Arabic and we pop out on the roof and go to the edge and take a picture or two and look around.

Carpet Souk in Marrakesh

Carpet Souk in Marrakesh

“I leave you now,” he says. “This is my family,” another man steps forward. “He show you out.” Danielle and I swap sly looks. Smile. The man steps forward, introduces himself. We shake hands, head down. We stop on the second floor. He kicks off his slippers and stands on the carpets in the middle of the room.

“You look at carpet today?” he asks…

-M