Thursday, January 28, 2010

Marrakech - Strange Adventure (Day 1)

I decided to take it easy today, being my first day in Marrakech, to just leisure walk around and allow myself to be lost among the numerous pink-colored winding alleys. Every alley looked the same to me, and all tourists lose their direction in Marrakech.

I really had little idea where I was today, except that I went to Cafe Des Epices for lunch (but I decided to spoil myself and have honey crepes and espresso instead of a proper meal), then completely lost direction walking around souks (markets) and ended up in Ben Youssef Mosque - supposedly a beautiful mosque but having been to Cordoba to see huge ones I wasn't particularly fascinated by this small-scale one.

I carried both my DSLR and Lomo LCA+ but used LCA+ more as locals here either feel offended by tourists who take their pictures without asking or they totally welcome it - asking you for money (a lot) for taking their pictures. So I figured using a plastic camera would draw less attention.

As with all my other travel experience, I had this funny encounter today. Marrakech is Morocco's most touristy city, and it is known for a lot of scams. I've heard very funny stories, like an Austrian client of mine drove across the desert with her husband one time and there was this man who was standing in the desert with the hood of his car open. He spoke in Arabic language so my client didn't understand him (most Moroccans speak some French though), but he gave my client this piece of paper written in Arabic language, and asked her to give to someone in the direction she was going. She thought it was probably a scam so she left with her husband and continued driving. When she got to the next town, she showed this piece of paper to a local, and the local said,"ah this says that the guy's car is broken, and he has his home address written on this paper." My client felt very bad thinking that the poor guy needed help, so she went to the address written on the paper trying to tell the guy's family. Turned out, when she arrived there with her husband, it was a carpet shop - the family invited them in and tried to persuade them to buy carpet!!

So, knowing that this city is full of scam, I was very cautious. In fact, today a young man led me to the cafe because I asked for directions (supposedly Moroccans are very friendly and willing to help with directions), and asked me to give him money when we arrived. But this was not my strange encounter. My strange encounter happened when I was at the Ben Youssef Mosque and this Moroccan guy (name was "Said" - pronounced "Sigh-Yeed" just like the guy in Lost) who was one of the official (registered) tour guides in Marrakech started talking to me. He seemed pretty decent, especially when I saw that he had the exact same phone as I did (Nokia E71) only in different color. I asked him directions to go to this very nice jewelry shop (Stephanie's Jewelry, recommended by Gwneth Paltrow, which was so damn expensive, charging French prices in Morocco) - in Marrakech because the medina is made up of hundreds of winding alleys/ streets it is almost impossible to find any place just by looking at the address. He said it was close to his home and said he'd take me there, and reassured me he wouldn't scam me. Well, indeed not only did he not ask me for money, he had to pay out of pocket to use the pay phone to call the shop since his mobile phone operator was a different one or something. I offered to pay him (20 Marrakech Dirhams, equivalent to 20 HKD) for helping me, but he declined. Being an "experienced" single female traveler, I sort of knew there had to be some other reason other than kindness for helping me - here's our conversation:

Moroccan guy: So are you married?
Me: Yeah (when traveling alone, always say yes and pretend your husband is waiting for you in hotel)
Moroccan guy: Really?
Me: Yeah!
Moroccan guy: Children?
Me: No.
Moroccan guy: Can you have other relations (relationships)?
Me: Of course not!
Moroccan guy: Cannot have long or short relations?
Me: Cannot. (At this point I had to look away to giggle. I almost burst out laughing.)
Moroccan guy: Oh... too bad...

Men in all countries are all the same afterall.

1 comment:

  1. Love the pics that you took! Seems it's very inspiring to be there, the colours, the patterns.... would love to go there one day :)