Posted on May 8, 2017
Top Reason NOT to visit Morocco
I am not rich. However,I can assure you, I know how rich people feel. I have always heard that when traveling, many countries identify Westerners as rich. Whether or not I stay in a 5 star hotel, resort or hostel dorm, if I am considered a rich foreigner, every one will have their hand out. Sometimes it is not obvious. I don’t always notice it until later when, forehead smack, I realize I have been had.
Our first experience with scammers and people out for our money happened as soon as we got off of the plan in Morocco. I read about the taxi fares from the airport outside of Casablanca to the city center. I was a little annoyed at the price, but since we were arriving at midnight, what could I say. I booked my hotel for the night through booking.com . I will NEVER EVER use them again. I had my Moroccan contact call the hotel and let them know we would be arriving late. The lady was nice enough to call the hotel two or three times to make arrangements for us. However, when we arrived at the hotel, the room was gone. I was upset. The man said there was some type of police convention in town. I told him it was terrible of them to give our room away (and charge me a fee for not checking in!!!) especially when I had a child and it was so late. The man seemed to be a little embarrassed and tried to make excuses. His colleague finally they found a hotel after making many calls. They gave Bean a yogurt and a water, paid for the taxi and said sorry again.
We got to the next hotel. Of course it was more expensive; but we needed a room for the night. I was too tired to try and find a better option for the situation. I just wanted to go to sleep and get Bean in the bed. At least the room was very large. They were willing to let us check out late and there was a big breakfast the next morning. This was our first experience with the reason not to visit Morocco.
A few days later, Bean and I were excited to be able to revisit Place Jemaa El Fna. There is so much movement, noise and excitement. We were looking forward to spending some time exploring. It is HOT in Marrakech! The sun was blazing down; we needed a hat. I stopped by the first little store that I saw and paid a fair price when purchasing a hat for myself. There wasn’t one for Bean so we kept walking. Bean and I stopped outside of a stall with lots of hats and lots of people. We both saw some she would like and asked the price. There was so much going on: people yelling back and forth, scores of tourists walking by, transactions taking place. The man gave me a price and I just gave him the money to get out of there and stop looking like a tourist. I was trying to make the conversion in my head, put my money away without being too obvious, listen to what the man was saying in french and listen to Bean at the same time. It was too much for my brain, but it took me awhile to realize it.
The man told me that he wanted to show me the Berber Market Cooperative. I knew that it was a scam to follow people who wanted to show you things in the market. All of the guide books tell you this. However, I was still trying to convert the money I just paid him and needed a minute to think. I told him I would follow him. I wanted to see what he would do anyway, especially as he was calling the other people in the market scam artists. He led us to the Berber Market and another man greeted him and told us to have a seat in his store. The new man began to describe all the oils and potions that he had and what they could do for us. I told him two or three times that I did not want to buy anything. I finally stood up and started for the door. “No, No,” he entreated me to look at his shea butter. He held a small 4 ounce jar and said he could sell it to me for $15. I was outraged. At that point, I realized I had paid several dollars more for Bean’s hat than I should have. I walked to the door.
The merchant demanded to know what was wrong. I told him I could buy the same thing in Chicago, in a larger quantity, for $5. He said he could give me a good price. “Forget it.” As I headed out the door, the man who led us to the cooperative and took the money for the hat came. He asked if I would like something else. “No. You are the scammer.” I told him. “You charged me way too much money for that hat.” “But I told you the price madame,” he said. Yes, he did. I told him, it took me a long time to do the conversion in my head. I had no further need of his services. He offered me tea. There were a few other men watching and they tried to intervene. I said I had enough help for the day.
Sitting down for lunch in La Place, there is a steady stream of peddlers asking tourists to buy something. As it was not my first time, I was not too shocked. There were other tourist who clearly expected to eat a peaceful meal. They tried to change tables so as not to be bothered, to little avail. Street children, African refugees, Syrian refugees and more walked by our table with everything from cigarettes to sunglasses for sell. It was non stop. We certainly did not eat in the Place again, no matter how energetic Jemaa El Fna is.
Money is the number one reason NOT to visit Morocco. I was fortunate to have a great place to retreat to at night. Going out in the daytime and doing business with local merchants was exhausting. As much as I like visiting markets and exploring, I stopped buying anything from markets while in Morocco. I rarely felt like I was getting a fair price. Taxi drivers demanded exorbitant fares. I haggled a few times and walked away. As much as I don’t like fighting for a fair price, I like it even less to see a grown man’s face fall when I offer a lower price. I worry that maybe I am cheating him. Does he have a big family at home and he is only trying to make ends meet? Has he been mistreated by tourists and feels defeated? It’s hard.
Traveling as a single mom, I was conflicted and mentally drained many times while in Morocco. Bean would play with the neighborhood children and have fun with them. They came into our apartment one day and took over. I looked at what Bean had and thought about what they might have at home. Most of what Bean has, she received as gifts from family and friends. These children did not know that. They saw toys that costs lots of money in the Moroccan toy stores. They began to ask for money. Bean didn’t care if they were playing with her because of what she had, she was happy to play with anyone.
Being constantly asked for money is hard. However, on most occasions, we were treated with kindness and generosity.
For every story that I have of people demanding more money, I have more where Moroccans treated Bean with playfulness. She was given cookies,pens, and kisses on the cheek from passing strangers. These gestures of kindness make our travel worthwhile. Morocco, we will come back again.