the Long's Strange Trip

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~  Touts in Tangiers ~
April 10 through April 13, 2000
$1 U.S. = 10.013 dirhams
(Remember to click on the thumbnails for enlargements of the photos)

Tangiers, Morocco
April 10 though April 13

Mysterious Morocco

(wpl) Weíd heard about touts. Theyíre people who want to guide you, or befriend you. They then take you around to places, and get paid a commission for bringing you there. Hotels, or carpet shops, or wherever.

So we were ready.

He asked us if we needed a taxi. No, we said, we were walking. So he walked with us, and started up conversation. His name was Akmed. He had friends all over the U.S. that he had taken around and shown Tangiers to. He told us he could take us to some good cheap hotels in the medina, but we said no, we were going to look at hotels off Boulevard Pasteur. So he said no problem, wherever you want to go, and he led us there. He told us to take a rest, however long we wanted, and then he'd take us to the Berber market, which was only today. We told him no, weíd go with him tomorrow. He was very persistent in telling us that if we go down there alone weíre going to have all kinds of people bothering us, pestering us, wanting to guide us, etc. He was really starting to bother and pester me. But at the same time I was beginning to think that it would be nice to have a guide to show us around, so I told him for sure, tomorrow.

So we were free, and walked down into the Medina by ourselves. The medina is the old city, a labyrinthine area of winding narrow streets, stairways, and alleyways. It doesnít take long to have no idea where you are and how you got there. Soon enough we were met by Mohammed, a guy who just wanted to practice his English. We told him that we didnít have any money to pay him, which offended him some, since of course he didnít want any money from us, just to talk English. We dodged into a pastry shop in the thought of ditching him, but he just sat with us and kept talking. Well, that didnít matter, we already knew we werenít going to pay him anything.

Mohammed introduced us to some "Berbers" who were open only today, selling their carpet. They were only allowed to open today, because that was the date of the Berber market. Yeah, sure, whatever.

Would we care for some mint tea? No obligation to buy anything, just sit back and learn some about Moroccan carpets. Sure, why not?

Which carpet do we like best? Why, this one, I guess. You want a thousand dollars for it? Of course Iím not interested. If I was going to make any offer, ok, yeah, Iíd give you $1 for it. I realize thatís not a real offer, because Iím not interested in buying a carpet tonight. Ok, ok, my real offer is $200, including shipping back to this U.S. Yes, I realize thereís no way you could really sell it that cheap...

The new kilim.jpg (117984 bytes)  We settled at $260. Plus shipping.  After arguing for several minutes and almost walking away from the deal (of course, they weren't going to let us do that) over whether we could pay with American Express or not (for some reason, they wanted VISA or cash, and we wanted to pay with something that we knew would allow us to cancel the charge if the rug never showed up - not that we were paranoid by this point, or anything), we finally settled the deal.  We walked out and Mohammed followed us, telling us he would take us to a good, cheap restaurant, where dinner would be about 25 dirhams each.  Unbelievably (we later figured out that Mohammed wasn't the brightest bulb on the tree), he took us to a restaurant that we had passed on the way to the carpet store, that he had told us was very expensive and the food wasn't that good!  When we pointed out his mistake, he completely denied it.  As we walked away from that place, he told us again that the restaurant was expensive.  We ended up at another place, where they agreed that we could both have the menu of the day (100 dirhams) and that we could split one.  You have to understand, while $10 doesn't sound like much for a full meal in most American cities, it's a fortune in Morocco, and only unwary tourists pay these prices.  We were getting comfortable, and amazingly, Mohammed scooted himself into the table, like he was going to sit with us while we ate!   We had had more than enough of Mohammed by this time, so we told him to get lost.  He asked us for a tip, and we told him we didn't have any money.

The next day, Akmed met us. He took us to the Anglican church grave, and showed us some strange looking cross on a tombstone. And it wasnít long before he was taking us to another carpet place. (It was actually an art school, authorized by the government to open to the pubic today only! ) We werenít interested. He took us to a medicinal herb shop where the proprietor knew nothing about medicinal herbs.  "The customers know what they want to buy," he told us.  We were hungry. So he took us to a restaurant where things cost $10 a plate, things that should have cost $2.50. We left there and told Akmed we didnít have any money. Not for expensive meals, not for carpets, not for anything. Thus, Akmed and we both agreed that the tour should be over. There was obviously nothing left in it for either party.

The next morning we ran into Mohammed. He wanted us to go with him back to the shop. It seems that someone needed to talk to us. "No way, Mohammed." We went out on our own. After breakfast we wandered down to the Medina, and before we knew it we were running into Mohammed again. Right around the corner was the carpet store, which amazingly enough was open today. They really needed to see us. So we got to the store, and they assured us they did not need to see us, that Mohammed didnít know what he was talking about, he was confused.

We told Mohammed to leave us alone, and headed off toward the Musee de la Kasbah. A minute later someone was yelling for us. We were ignoring him, thinking it was Mohammed, but it turns out it was the "brother" of the carpet store owner. "He asked me to show you where the Museum is, so that other guy wonít bother you anymore." How nice.

His name was Mustafa. He walked us to the museum, but it was closed until 3:00 or 3:15. We decided to get some tea, so he showed us Le Detroit, where the Rolling Stones and other hip people used to hang out in the 60ís. Itís now mainly a tour bus stop-off, but Mustafa said heíd take us to a much cheaper place. So we followed him, and went by his motherís house, and then to his little place two doors down. He said his mother wanted to make us some mint tea. How wonderful.

We sat and chatted with Mustafa for a little while, and then his aunt and her adult children came by, and we all sat and chatted a little bit.  Mustafa taught us words we might need, such as -  Thank you:  shokran.   No thank you:  la shokan.  Go away:  imshee.  No money:  mateesh fulush.   I wrote them all down on a card.  We didnít want to be rude, but we had been sitting there a while, and really needed to get moving along on our day. We finally managed to get up, and Mustafa suggested we leave a tip for his mother. We put down 10 dirhams, (about $1), but Mustafa looked offended, and really wanted us to put down some more. We put down 10 more, made it to the museum, and gave Mustafa 20 for a tip.  But by then he was demanding 100. Christie started to give him 20 more just to leave, but I yanked that from her hands and pulled out my notecard.   "Halini na imara ati!" I yelled.  Leave me alone with my wife, the first phrase I could find.  We  escaped from him by going into the museum.

Quaint medina of Chaoeun  So we managed to get out of Tangiers, and as I write this are chilling in a small mountainside village called Chaouen, near the Riff Mountains. Our hotel is $13/night, breakfast in bed this morning was $3.40. No touts have latched onto us here, and weíre starting to relax again. Its 1:15 in the afternoon, and weíre still in bed.

Place Outa el Hammam, Chaoeun

Click here to continue in Morocco with "I Have a Friend in America!"





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