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A Middle Eastern Marketplace

Kristie Burns presents her workshop to a 6th grade class.

Curious as to what a CULTUREALL workshop is really like? Marty Racheter, of Write with Racheter, Professional Writing and Editing narrated a Cultural Ambassador, Kristie Burns’ workshop, “A Middle Eastern Marketplace.”

Kristie Burns went to Egypt, which she described as a very open society, her last year of college. She knew Arabic and was a photographer, kept getting good jobs, and ended up staying sixteen years, spending time also in Saudia Arabia, “a very closed society.”

Burns had an Arabic market set up in the media center of Fairmeadow Elementary for this sixth grade class to visit and enjoy shopping.

“The marketplace is a very nice thing,” she told them. “This could be 800 years ago, or it could be today. The marketplace has not changed. It just might be selling something more modern today, for instance rugs made by machine instead of by hand.”

Egypt has malls, of course. “People can choose to go to the seven-story mall, or they can go to the market. People like the markets, especially for food, because it’s the freshest,” Burns explained.

“Besides,” she said, “the markets are in the neighborhoods, so you get to visit with your neighbors and talk to people. Parents often send their children to do the shopping. The markets are smaller than the malls, but very much alive.”

Something very different from our stores is that the items in the marketplace have no prices on them. “You’re expected to know the price,” said Burns, “and you need to remember the price, because the vendor wants as much money as possible for his goods. If he thinks you have more money, he will charge more for the same item!”

Burns then demonstrated bargaining, the process by which the final selling price of an item is determined. There is a right way and a wrong way to bargain. “You want to be friendly,” she said. “Ask about the vendor’s family, their new kitten, or say nice things about the product you are interested in buying. And saying ‘This is all the money I have’ might actually be all it takes to get it.”

Following that brief explanation, Burns passed out cards to the sixth graders. Everyone had a card, and was to be whatever the card said – a shopper or a vendor. Shoppers had to go to the vendor indicated on the card and bargain for what they wanted to buy. She passed out money to be used as well. When they were finished with that transaction, they were to trade cards and shop in a different store.

There were five tables (stores) with items from the Middle East on them, and represented vendors selling food, books, clothing, spices and household goods, and toys. At the book vendor, she showed a book written in Arabic that was a knock-off of what we might find here, and indicated that it opened from left to right (opposite our books), and was read right to left (again, opposite to our books). She said that every Arabic letter has three different forms, depending on where it is in the sentence.

There was also a table that represented a cafe. “It is usually only the men who go to the cafe,” instructed Burns. Rather than eating and drinking at the cafe table, however, students were working with Arabic letters and words.

This was indeed a very busy marketplace, and students had a good time going from “store” to “store” shopping.

– Marty Racheter, Write with Racheter, Professional Writing and Editing, 641-628-2389, racheterm@yahoo.com

To bring a workshop to your classroom or gathering please contact vista@worldofdifferance.us.

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