After our first visit to Morocco, we shouldn't be surprised...but we were... again. Now we know. This story is remarkably similar to when we were in Tangier.. did I post about that a few years again? I'll have to look back.. if not, I'll post it later.
We are staying in the medinah and there are very few tourists. Which is fine. But we stick out like sore thumbs. We look nothing like Moroccans, dress nothing like them, sound nothing like them. So as we walk down the street, people are constantly staring, begging, asking us things, trying to get us to go places, to buy things, etc etc.
Yesterday morning, we were meeting Joenan and Jeane, two other Americans that we came with, but that are staying at a different hotel, at the Blue Gate at a certain time. When we walked out of our hotel, a boy, about 16, met us on the streets and said something to Alex, who just didn't respond, or said no, or something along those lines. And we walked off toward the blue gate, and that was that. Or so we thought. Well, J&J were late. So we went to the bank, right near the Blue Gate. The line was long. I was worried we were going to miss our friends while we were waiting, so I kept going outside to check. The 16 year old boy we saw earlier was sitting outside of the bank. I came out twice and both times he asked me something in English... was I looking for my boyfriend? Was I looking for my two girlfriends? Each time I smiled and said nothing, went back inside, thought nothing of it. Finally, we were done at the bank and J&J made it to the Blue Gate. We started walking through the medinah, looking at the stores, etc, and the same 16 year old boy stopped and started talking to us. He said, oh you finally found your friends. I didn't really know what he was talking about until later, when Jeane said he had been outside their hotel earlier on the way to the Blue Gate. Weird. Well, we kept strolling through the medinah, shopping, not shopping, talking, taking pictures, touristy things (there is no point in trying to hide it - we are OBVIOUSLY tourists), all along the boy walking with us, yapping, talking, whatever. I think nothing of this. So we come to a fork in the road and are debating on going on way, the boy telling us to go another. He tells us the way we want to go, everything is closed because it is Holy Day (which is true), so we should go the other way. He kept saying, I'm not an official guide, I don't want money, etc etc. Of course we knew he would want money, but he is a 16 year old kid. Ok we'll give him 5 bucks. Ya know? So we follow him and he takes us to all these little stops, where most likely he got kickbacks from our visit and our purchases. We go to a tannery, a jewelery maker, a spice guy, a guy that works with argon trees, etc etc. Well, after an hour or two, we are sick of this. While we are at the jewelery store, A and I are waiting outside and the boy disappears. Apparently a cop was walking around and hsi lookouts told him to leave so he won't get thrown in jail. A local man tells us that snice he is not an official guide, him walking around with us, showing us around, taking us to his friends shops where he most likely gets kickbacks is illegal. After his lookouts tell him the cop is gone, he comes back, laughing. At this point, Joenan doesnt want to spend anymore money buying things (we have bought nothing at this point - only waiting while J&J shop). So we say we are hungry. The boy tries to get us to go to his friend's place, supposedly with a terrace overlooking the mosque. We had a recommendation from another traveler and wanted to go there. He tells us over and over again that it is closed. But we saw it earlier and it was not. So we still want to go to Thami's, the place we heard about earlier. He says fine, but I will see you again because it is closed. At this point, we are obviously parting ways. We are walking back to the main stret, he is still trying to get us to go to Fez Lounge, his friend's place. He finally realizes we are not going to do what he wants. So he says over and over again, Something for me? (expecting to be paid - like A & I had assumed). He is going to each of us individually saying, something for me, something for me, over and over again. Alex gives him 20 dirham, the equivalent of 2 euros. Not much for us, but a relatively good amount for them, especially for walking around with us for 2 hours. He throws is on the ground and says, this is nothing, nothing, 20 dirham can get me nothing. All an act because we see his friend quickly pick up the money and put it in his pocket. So now he is at me, and says, something for me? I say, my husband just paid you. He goes onto Jeane. She doesn't speak, just keeps walking. They want to give him nothing. He starts grabbing her jacket, grabbing her bag of things that she bought. He rips the bag. He has turned bright red, he is so very angry. Continually he says, something for me? He started to get VERY angry, turning bright red, saying, oh you think you're clever, something for me? He gets in front of us, stops walking, and starts taking off his clothes. He loses his jacket, his shoes, he starts to unzip his pants. We keep walking. Something for me? Something for me? At this point, I am scared. There are other kids around, but we can't tell if they are his friends or his enemies. We keep walking, faster and faster. We turn the corner after he has taken off lots of his clothes, and two little girls who were passing as all this has been going on, say, RUN. So we walk, very, very fast. He comes up to us again. Grabbing Jeane and her bag and her jacket. She gives him 5 euros, the equivalent of 50dirham, and says, this is all I have. He doesn't haves shoes on and we are close to the main shopping street, plus he now has 70dirham, so he stops following us. We keep speed walking, almost running, until we get to Thami's, the place we wanted to eat, which was OPEN, of course.
At this point, we are all running on adrenaline. I was scared. J&J were scared. I won't speak for A, but let's get real. It was scary. We were in the middle of the medinah, not knowing where we are, not speaking the language, no street signs. It was scary. So we sit down and order food. As we eat, I am constantly looking for the boy to come back. He never does. However, a British couple who walked with us to the tannery (we separate after that, the boy stayed with us, they escaped), passed by our table at Thami's to say hello. They asked us where we went, we told them what happened. The girl was so very surprised. The man, not so much. He said he was here before and the same thing happened, except the 'unofficial' and unwanted tour guide held him and his friend at knife point until they got to the ATM and made them give him 50dirham, the equivalent of 5euros. So compared to that, well, our experience wasn't that scary!
After lunch and for the rest of the day while having some Moroccoan tea at our hotel, having an early dinner at a Cafe, and doing more walking and sightseeing, we kept talking about him, thining about it, and expecting to see him again, which we never did. A and I were not surprised that he asked for money. We knew that would happen. J&J were soo surprised he wanted money. I was so surprised that he got so angry and so ugly so fast. Losing his clothes in the streets? Wow. The more I thought about him, the more sad I got for him. What a life.
Now, it is our second full day in Fes. We are sight seeing outside of the Medinah today, so perhaps it won't be the poor of the poor. We shall see... Maybe we'll have another crazy story.
And just in case you forgot about what happened when we were in Morocco last time, here's the story: http://wherearetherapaljes.blogspot.com/2010/07/living-in-foreign-country-is-culture.html