How to survive Morocco

Moroccan Berber doing the hard sellI’m back from a two-week trip to Morocco, with stays in Casablanca, Fez, the desert, the mountains, movie sets and more. Morocco is now independent of France, but the French influence is obvious throughout.

Even with this influence, the Moroccon culture is like no other I’ve experienced. The people are mostly friendly, happy and willing to help tourists find their destination if they look lost. The kids returning from school on main roads with no footpaths wave at the passing cars, waiting for a wave back. Haggling can take some getting used to, and as I mentioned last year after my first trip to Morocco, you can start looking like a fool if you go overboard.

One less appealing aspect of Moroccan culture is the hassling. Opening phrases prior to the “come into my shop/pay me” line included:

  • “I like your necklace/earrings/sunglasses.”
  • “Quickly, we close for prayers soon; here, let me show you around.”
  • “You have Moroccan blood, I can tell.”
  • “Where are you from? Oh, ‘(insert TV show phrase they’ve learnt from someone else of your nationality)’.”
  • “Just look in my shop for the pleasure of your eyes.”
  • “Just look in my spice shop/restaurant for the pleasure of your nose.” (Really!)

Despite the “friendly” hard sell, lots of people were genuinely happy just to say hello and chat. Being welcomed to Morocco by strangers in the street was heart warming, and their words were the reason why I tried to smile and keep cool each time someone approached: they weren’t all trying to sell something

The funniest hassle was on a windy mountain pass with stunning views. A man dressed as a local Berber asked one of my friends for painkillers, and my friend wanted to help. He opened his suitcase and started looking. With the rest of us keen to take shelter from the wind, I gave the man the painkillers in my handbag and the man insisted on giving my friend’s ‘wife’ (me) a gift for my kindness. The gift was, of course, no gift at all. The painkiller request was a ploy to get us into his shop, and the offer of a gift quickly turned into him hassling us to buy something. I eventually escaped, with my ‘husband’ telling me in a comically dramatic voice to get out while I could. He was stuck in the shop, and I ran back to the car, where the rest of our group had already taken shelter with the windows up to stop the sellers at the window. It was like we were in some zombie horror film: “Wind the windows up before they get in!”. Our friend eventually escaped, but only after buying two rocks.

 

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced professional writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Read more...

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