Last spring (2013) I posted several pieces about Value – one’s innate, God-given Value, as distinct from money or possessions that “represent” value. This distinction between Universal Value (innate value) and Representation of Value (currency or physical objects) was a new concept for me, yet one that felt correct as soon as I was made aware of it. You can read a couple of my earlier postings on this topic Here and Here.
Since our arrival in Morocco in early April, Tomas and I have been keenly aware of the daily exchange of real value that occurs between the people here. We are not excluded from this exchange. Indeed, it continually surprises us just how much intrinsic value people DO exchange with us.
Perhaps this accounts for the popularity of Flea Markets and Farmer’s Markets in the western countries. In these contexts one is personally interacting with another human being regarding each item of interest and each purchase. The “bargaining” that goes on in these places only serves to increase this exchange of each person’s energetic value. The “price” is sometimes secondary to this exchange and the “money changing hands,” while important, is seen as only part of the transaction – NOT THE WHOLE TRANSACTION.
While in Chefchaouen, Tomas and I engaged in an “Exchange of Value” that has continue to impact us significantly. On our first evening in the Blue City we were strolling back to our hotel through our newly claimed Medina neighborhood and we encountered Mohammed, the owner of a small Berber Outlet Store. In this tiny cubicle was an assortment of hand-woven and hand-sewn rugs, carpets, textiles and clothing. There are many stores like this in Chefchaouen, so at first we didn’t think this was anything extraordinary. Mohammed spoke some English and went to work on his American customers with his usual sales pitch. Rug after rug was offered and unrolled into the center of the store; each piece was a marvel of texture, color and design. We could have purchased a carpet in any size and any color, because if we didn’t see what we were looking for in this small shop – Mohammed had a storeroom that was easily accessible and he would disappear for a couple of minutes and return with MORE choices.
We were looking for a small blue carpet for our bedroom floor and after some “bargaining” between Mohammed and Tomas, they settled on a price and the ownership of a deep blue, Berber design carpet was transferred. Tomas also purchased a two-piece cotton lounge outfit in a pale gray color that he found appealing. We returned to our hotel; I immediately put the new carpet down on the floor and we began admiring the colors, the patterns and the energy that seemed to be emanating from the very fibers themselves.
The next morning Tomas went out by himself for a while “to get a haircut” and returned with shortened hair, as well as a new cashmere “jelaba” – one of those long, hooded garments that are worn for all occasions here by both men and women. The soft, brown fabric was water-repellent, which came in very handy the next day when it rained. Tomas had also acquired a pair of traditional pointed-toe, all-leather shoes and a black silk cap to complete his outfit.
However, these articles were not the only cause of Tomas’s excitement. What had transpired that morning between him and Mohammed was the real story he brought back to me that day. As a result of this interaction, Mohammed had invited us for tea in his home that afternoon. This was significant for both of us, as it would be an opportunity for me to meet a Moroccan woman in her own domain.
When we tried to check in with Mohammed after lunch we couldn’t find him, so we went away for a bit and came back and found him standing in front of his store. He greeted us and led the way around the corner, up some stairs and into a fairly small apartment directly off the walkway. He assured us that we needn’t remove our shoes (as we had been prepared to do) and seated us in a long, cushioned, carpeted room that had a window directly overlooking his shop. He served us tea and we chatted as best we could in bits and pieces of several languages. Then he brought out some textiles that hadn’t been in his store. I fell in love with a silk piece that had broad stripes of what Mohammed called “Chaouen” (Berber for Chefchaouen) blue. It was exquisite. I got the idea to have a jelaba made for me from this fabric and within a few minutes Mohammed had the tailor there taking my measurements, so that my jelaba would “fit me personally” unlike the one that Tomas had bought “off the rack” so to speak. I was hoping that the Jelaba would be ready to take home with me in a couple of days but Mohammed assured us that it would be ready for me IN ONLY A COUPLE OF HOURS!!!
At this point, the hospitality increased. Mohammed’s wife, Fatima, was out at the moment but was making a special soup – he took us into the kitchen and showed us the bubbling pots of broth. Could we return in a couple of hours and have soup with him and his family? We were both a bit overwhelmed by this expansion of hospitality but we agreed we’d come back.
About an hour and a half later Mohammed once again escorted us to his home. Fatima greeted us warmly and vanished into the kitchen. Mohammed took me in to be there with her. She spoke both Moroccan and Spanish but I spoke neither and she spoke no English. It was an awkward few moments. Mohammed reappeared and ushered me back into the salon. We met the couple’s three sons, ages 16, 7 and 5. Their daughter (13) was sleeping.
Shortly, a coffee table was set before us and bowls brimming with soup appeared. “This is a special soup that my wife makes for Ramadan,” Mohammed told us proudly. It was a tomato-based soup with, short, thin noodles, garbanzo beans and shredded chicken. The soup was eaten with dates and soon a deep-fried, honey-and-sesame-seed coated sweet was served for dessert. All very tasty.
During the meal Mohammed’s mother and brother showed up, so we got to meet more members of their family. The mother was at first quite reserved but gradually warmed up and soon we were all smiling and nodding to one another – the international language.
Of course we were pressed to eat a second bowl of soup. And it would have been bad manners to refuse, so we ate a second bowl of soup, more dates and more sweet.
Just prior to eating, Mohammed had brought out a couple of “gifts” for us: a necklace and a key ring — trinkets that tourists might buy in a souvenir shop. Each item featured a hand with an eye in the palm. This symbol, seen throughout Morocco, is an ancient sign of “Protection from the Evil Eye.” We graciously accepted. We are currently using the key ring for our front door key to ward off any malevolent spirits. So far, it’s doing a fine job.
And before she sat down to eat, Fatima gifted me with a gorgeous scarf of many colors, including the same “Chaouen” blue that was featured in my soon-to-be-delivered, custom-made jelaba. I was really touched. And as I had been wanting to learn how to tie a proper head scarf for a couple of weeks, I gestured for her to show me how to do that and she complied by showing me TWO ways to tie it, so that my floppy bangs were properly covered and the scarf stayed securely in place.
At that point he tailor returned with my “Chaouen” blue, Berber-woven-silk jelaba and I went into the back bedroom to try it on Apparently, Fatima did not know about my jelaba when she gave me the scarf, because when I returned to the main room, both she and her mother-in-law gasped with surprise and appreciation of how beautiful the garment looked on me, but even more so, how perfectly the scarf went with the jelaba!
I twirled around to the “oos” and “ahhs” of all present and shortly after that Tomas and I expressed our appreciation in the few Moroccan, English and Spanish words we knew that could convey such. We walked out into the Medina evening reeling from this close encounter of the Moroccan kind and overflowing with gratitude, feeling that no matter how much “representation of value” we had blessed this family with (and it was quite a lot, actually) we had received many times more from our hosts in intrinsic value. We had “become friends” with this family and would now be welcome back anytime. And, of course, that street goes both ways here according to Moroccan custom.
We had to walk for about an hour in order to integrate what we had just received, before we could even begin to think about sleeping that night.
And as I made my way, radiantly through the Medina, I drew admiring looks from men and women alike: I had purchased the equivalent of a Berber evening gown. Everyone I met delighted in the beauty that this creation was adding to the totality of the evening.
Exchange of Value – Reprise. The evening before we left Chefchaouen – the day of the two hikes – we were making our way back to our hotel, when we passed by a woman sitting outside a shop that sold cosmetic oils, spices and pigments for paints. Tomas walked on but something caught my attention and I stopped and looked the woman in the eyes. It was Fatima. This was HER shop. I greeted her with a big smile, which she returned, and I called to Tomas to come back. We all went inside and she began to show us HER merchandise. She opened several bottles and jars of different oils and crèmes for the skin and hair and encouraged us to try them. We purchased a bottle of Argon oil, a Moroccan skin care product renowned for its healing and nourishing properties. Again, we felt that special exchange of energy that made the encounter more than “just a purchase.” I was very happy to see my Moroccan sister, so comfortable in her own business, working side by side with her husband to provide a good life for their family.
That’s how Tomas and I came to truly understand the difference between Value and Representation of Value. Our world has not been the same since.