Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Out and About in Morocco

The past few days in Morocco have been an adventure and we have successfully blended in with the local population. We have assimilated with the culture and customs...just like Dr. Marcus Brody did from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. we are enjoying many of the local foods such as McDonald's, Starbucks, Pizza Hut and Dunkin Donuts. Ahhhhh...only in Morocco can you get culture like this.
Actually the past few days have been fun, but we still stick out for a few reasons like: 1. we are tall. 2. we are pale. 3. our clothing is much different. 4. we walk around and look up at all the different buildings. 5. beggars bother us. Oh well, it happens i guess. We have been wandering around the different streets for the past day and have tried some of the local food. The mint tea is excellent and may be our new choice drink for the next few months. The street markets have lots of brightly colored fruits and veggies and you are encouraged to haggle for price. One thing that has made me consider becoming vegetarian is seeing the chickens couped up in tiny cages. Think about five or six chickens penned up in a crate smaller than the size of a apple box. Turns you off to yardbird pretty quickly ya know...
Jamie and I would like to share a fun experience or two with you. The internet cafes here are a bit expensive, so a full story will be provided after the return. The first story is about my first experience with a barber. I'd been growing a beard for the past three weeks before traveling and saw a barber giving a guy a shave with a straight blade while strolling through the streets of the Petite Socco. A straight blade cut has been something I've always wanted to try, so i thought...why not? what's the worst that could happen, right? Pushing those thoughts aside, I get the barber's attention, rub my hairy chin, and raise my eyebrows. He understood and was like, "you bet, take a seat." I spent a few minutes waiting until Mohammad finished with his existing customer. After that guy left, I was leaned back in the barber's chair in a position where I could see all of the diplomas Mr. Mohammad Chomrikh had earned. I felt a bit safer knowing he had some training. He readied his chair and began prepping my beard. The warm later relaxed my face and soon after Mohammad was cutting away. I gotta hand it to him. This guy knew his trade and I have never had a shave so close. After getting all the hair and stubble off, he would run his fingers across my upper lip and face to feel for any rough spots, then he touch them up with his blade. This guy was a pro and my face was incredibly smooth. I paid the 30 Durhams (~ 4 bucks) and thanked him for a great shave. If you ever get a chance for a shave with a straight blade, do's well worth the feeling.
the second story has to do with an experience we had with a man named Rahdish. Jamie and I had finished up lunch at the Medina and were making our way up towards the Kasbah when a gentleman told us we were headed in the wrong direction. He graciously offered to take us and give us a small "tour". The nickle and dime tour consisted of a little bit about Moroccan history, the Kasbah, the port, some of the famous figures who had visited cafes around the museum. We were kinda skeptical of the guy when he talked about Mick Jagger dined at this one restaurant, but the foto we saw at the place was of Kieth Richards. Close...sort of. Rahdish was a friendly guy and Jamie and I were about to pay him for his time, when he was like, "come mai friend, I show you great view of Tangier."
We felt obligated to the guy, so we followed him into this rug store and went up five floors of decorative rugs and swag to the top of the building. Yea, the views of Tangier were great, but this is where he hit us with the guilt trip. We took our fotos, said thanks, and handed him the 20 or so Durhams that we had. For 15 minutes of his time, we thought it was a pretty good deal. Right? Well, he says, "for me to bring you up here, my friend charges me 50 Durhams." Jamie and I look at each other and were like, "we knew this was too good to be true." I did have an additional 50 Durhams in my pocket, so the guy started to shake his head and say things like, "i do this for you, mai friend, and this is all you give?" We told him we were sorry and that is all that we had. He leads us down the stairs to a room that now had three guys in it. "Oh, boy, we thought..this is where we get robbed" The shop keeper wanted us to stay around and hear his sales pitch about all the things we could buy. "No pressure" was repeated a few times. Jamie and I looked at each other and were like, "get me the heck outta here." We left the building in haste and Rahdish was still pressuring us for payment. Any gift will do is what he said. I opened my bag and pulled out some wetnips, a straw, and a my camera bag. We really had nothing else. He suggested a pen as a gift, but we didnt have one of those. We felt guilty, departed ways, and then walked double time back to the Medina where there were plenty of people.
The experience was a bit scary for what could have happened. Looking back on the incident, it could have been a lot worse and we quickly learned that nothing is for free. Turns out, the nickle and dime tour ended up costing us about 10 bucks and a bit of stress.
Hope all is well!
jp and jw


rafal said...

you need to haggle about everything remember the jewish guys in AR

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you guys are having a lot of fun!

Are you going to post some fotos?

JP the elder

Anonymous said...

Yowza. That whole "I'll show you around" bait-and-switch is spooky close to an experience I had in Turkey, Italy, Germany...


Greg said...

We are Canadians living and working in Morocco. They are the worlds best salesmen and do a great guilt trip on the unsuspecting. You just have to learn to say LA which is no !! Its a poor country so every caucasian is seen as a wealthy person. But we feel very safe here far more than in the USA.