The Tale of the Moroccan Rug Lords

The Tale of the Moroccan Rug Lords

A conversation bubble lights up my phone.

“Looking back, everything we experienced in Morocco that day kept becoming the sketchiest thing I’ve ever done,” the text reads.

Another text shows up.

“Boarded a ferry to Africa without checking passports, getting yelled at in Moroccan French for taking too long to ride a camel, being led through the city by some dude who could’ve easily stabbed every single one of us, BUYING FUCKING MOROCCAN NOSE SPICES, bartering for our lives with rug mafia/sultans and a terrifying 10 minutes of free time in the market.”

Yep, this was my experience in Tangier, Morocco. And this is the story of the Moroccan rug lords.

Three years ago, I was nearing the end of my first backpacking trip through Europe. My friend Paolo and I were in southern Spain when we decided to cross Africa off our list of continents visited. We only had enough time for a day trip, but we figured it would be worth it to see another country for the day.

The next morning, we crossed over the Straight of Gibraltar and reached the port city of Tangier in Morocco. An hour later, after weird parking lot camel rides and a quick historical drive through the city, we reached the city center. The market bustled with activity. Kids ran through the streets and vendors yelled their prices out to tourists who didn’t understand them.

The tour guide led us to a massive rug store where we learned the fascinating history of rugs. Their sales pitches were sharp and aggressive. Their displays fantastical. Their smiles terrifyingly friendly.

Paolo and I listened to their sales pitch.  I naively began to browse their selection of rugs.

“You like it? Very nice. I have one just like in my home. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” the man said to me.

“Yes, very nice,” I agreed.

“How much would you pay?” he asked.

“Oh, I’m not looking to buy,” I said.

“Just say a number, that’s all.”

A small crowd of rug sellers began to form around us. I knew I shouldn’t have looked at the stupid rugs. The swarm closed in on us even more.

“How much do you think the rug is worth? Take a guess. No to buy, just guess,” the first rug man said to me.

“Umm…I’m not sure. Like 100 euros?” I said nervously.

He scoffed. “This rug is handmade from the finest thread in Morocco.” He held up the rug and pointed to the design. It was the size of a welcome mat and looked like any other rug I’ve ever seen, but then again, I’m not a part of this world. I don’t know the details of the rug intricacies.

He waved his hand to the others, signaling them to join in on the conversation. They closed in on us, each pointing out a different reason why we absolutely needed this rug.“It’s worth more than 500 euros, but I’ll give it to you for 100 since you like it so much,” he continued.

Paolo and I gave each other a nervous glance. I tried to backtrack, explaining that I didn’t have enough room in my luggage for a rug. He quickly debauched my excuse by magically folding the rug into the size of my palm. He started ringing up the “purchase” before I could stop him.

“Oh, I mean…I don’t…um… yeah, I don’t want the rug,” I said.

The noisy chaos in the rug warehouse suddenly came to a halt. Everyone began to stare at us. “I give you good discount. You said me you would pay 100. You can’t take this back. You gave your word,” he said. There were now six rug guys staring at us with contempt.

“We gotta get out of here,” Paolo murmured to me.

We started backing away, apologizing with every step back. I muttered another excuse about not having any money on me, but they weren’t having it. We made it out the door and a few of them followed us down the busy, winding streets, yelling at us in French and Arabic.

“There’s our tour guide,” Paolo pointed to a man in the distance. We took off in that direction without looking back. We found ourselves in the market for the next phase of the most memorable day trip I’ve ever taken in my life.

I looked down at my phone and laughed at the texts Paolo sent me about that bizarre trip to Morocco.

“This is golden. We risked our damn lives out there,” I responded.

My experience in Morocco was…unique. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an amazing place to visit! I have a lot of friends who have traveled to Morocco and all of them have nothing but positive things to say about their experiences. 

That’s the beauty of traveling. Every one has different experiences, even people who are traveling together will have their own opinions and outlook on the places they visited. Even the weird, not-so-ideal adventures make for good stories. When things don’t go as planned, look at the situation with a sense of humor and just go with it. It’s a lot more fun that way, anyway.