Marrakesh was one of the best trips of my life, and a destination I will certainly revisit. The city is striking for many reasons – beautiful colors, the souk markets, and stunning restaurants.
The main issue I had was with the vendors. Around every corner was someone wanting to give you a guided tour, sell you overpriced goods, or establish a rapport in order to execute their scam to unsuspecting virgin tourist. Throughout my travels, I am hypersensitive to scams. In all the sixty-plus countries I have visited, Morocco was at an expert level.
Looking at a map was like having a fish-hook in your mouth. A local would walk in front of you for a while, pretending like they are taking you somewhere. Then demand money when you reach your destination.
Looking at a map on the edge of the souk will immediately prompt a “the souk is closed” from multiple loiterers along the streets. ” But I can take you on a tour of the tannery. They come down from the mountains just once a month and are closing in a few hours, so we don’t have much time”. Meaning that they want you to avoid the souk at all costs so that you don’t get an idea of the local pricing. Even when you say, “no thanks”, there is a chain of others waiting down the road to convince you otherwise – as if they are communicating by mobile to hook you on a second or third try. If successful they will take you to their private store to sell you the same item at ten to twenty times the cost.
Along the way, you’ll hear how the Berber‘s are the honorable vendors, and to not trust the Arab vendors. They go to great lengths to tell you that the Arabs have no integrity. My experience was quite the opposite. Romans used “barbarian” as a term to reference tribal non-Romans, of which the Berber’s were one of them.
My impression is that the Berber’s don’t consider this a scam. If they convince a foreigner to pay for an item at Western prices, that’s business.
Needless to say, nearly every vendor who spoke to me throughout my two-week stay had lied in one capacity or another. Typical inquiries began as, “Do you know where this place is located” with me pointing at the map, and the vendor saying, “That place is no longer there (or that it’s closed), but I can take you to a better place”, And they try to coax you to their store. I became allergic to the outright lies, and it served to prevent any dialog with the local culture. It’s quite sad because this mistrust does not help fuel tourism. But somehow it’s all worked out for thousands of years.
Regardless, if you managed to navigate past all these challenges, the souk, restaurants, and city ambiance is over-the-top. Often a narrow street lined with orange clay and sandy streets had an oasis of trees, fountains, and tranquility behind them.
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