The Souk, Marrakech

 Photo by  Marwane El Ouakil
Photo by Marwane El Ouakil

Even with a native guide, be prepared to negotiate with the merchants within the souk, which is the open air market in Marrakech where traders have traded goods for over 1,000 years. The merchants are so persistent they will follow you throughout every store to sell you that hand crafted piece of art that will hold your wine bottle when you return home.  

You’ll find yourself, or as I did negotiating endlessly for sport. You will be consumed by the seller’s charismatic charm, persistence & personality and you will laugh as you keep saying no to his counter offers,  However, hold steady because you are negotiating in Dirham, the currency of the country and at the end you will finally get your price if your mate doesn’t pull you away sooner out of exhaust.   …and when this is all over and you are back in your hotel room beating your chest in victory, look at what you bought.  It is still that time tiny piece of tin craft you just overpaid.

I also advise you to be careful of the rug salesmen.  They ship anywhere in the world.  



Learning a foreign language

This can be totally fun gathering nouns and verbs and constructing simply sentences. Don’t kid yourself everyone you meet on your travels appreciates your effort.

I once carried a conversation in Italian with a porter for 15 minutes telling him about my grandparents migration from Italy as we traveled from Rome to Florence. He was so pleased meeting me he refused to take my tip when he assisted me with my luggage.

Instead he said with a big smile “piacere mio!”  which means;  It was my pleasure!

Global Access

It is worth the hassle to submit doc’s and go through the interview process to avoid long lines at immigration. The exit kiosk’s coming into the country simply take your photo and scan your fingers and you receive a receipt from the machine which you hand to the immigration officer at the exit.  It almost feels like an ATM transaction. 

London’s Harrods & Mohamed Al Fayed

A highlight on one of my trips to London, I met Mohamed Al Fayed when he owned Harrod’s a few years back.  One had to enter the side of the building and go up the escalators to the 5th floor to enter an unmarked door.  Once in, the receptionist would escort you to a conference room.  My room had soft lighting and an old parquet floor that you would expect to see in a townhouse on the upper east side in New York.  After waiting patiently for 20 minutes he walked in with his son.  Sitting in front of me were plans for a 100,000 square foot newly developed department store space in Las Vegas that I wanted to share with him.  The first words that came out of his mouth were; “I am not buying anything!”  …and then we both laughed.  The meeting went well and I learnt he was planning on building a Harrods at the base of Harrah’s Hotel in Las Vegas.  He then walked me to the next room to show me a model that was enclosed in a glass case.  It was pretty spectacular.  After the meeting and on the way out he was very gracious and handed me a new Harrods vinyl bag replacing my old one and then proceeded on giving me two table top books.  One was about Harrods and the other about The Hotel Ritz in Paris, while saying, “You know I own this hotel too!”  He was such a great pitchman.  I knew when I was in his presence I was with one of the greatest merchants of the the world.  His parting words were; “Joseph, you do plan to come back tomorrow and shop with your wife, won’t you?”  I smiled graciously shaking his hand and my head, saying:  “Of course, Mohamed we plan too.”