Outside of Marrakech, most of the rest of the country was kindof a blur. We caught many of the highlights: The palace in Rabat (no photos allowed), The art deco and impressive Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the incredible souks of Fes, the dunes of Erg Chebbi and more Kasbahs than I can actually remember.
Our entire time there, though, there was one overarching feeling – you’re not really welcome here, but your money is, so hand it over and kindly piss off. It’s probably partly because we had our experience orchestrated through a travel agency (we’d booked through GAP Adventures, who then sub-contract to local agencies in Morocco), but we were shuttled from tourist trap to tourist trap, and probably spent a lot more on the trip (especially food) than was really necessary. We did expect to pay the tourist tax though, so we weren’t too surprised and didn’t kick up much of a fuss.
We were also prepared for beggars and scammers, and I actually got kindof used to small children grabbing my back pants pockets in crowded areas feeling for a wallet. And we even realized that sometimes it’s helpful to give a kid a few dirhams once we’d given up trying to navigate our way back to our riad from the middle of the souks. What I wasn’t prepared for was the dressing down by teenaged boys for not giving them enough money for essentially nothing.
I’m sure it’s not uncommon, but there seemed to be very little knowledge of what the value of a dollar (or in their case Euro as the conversion currency of choice) really is for the average person. There is just a sense of “you have money and I don’t, so hand some over.” We were berated and abused more than once for not handing over the equivalent of about 20 Euros (at least) for anything from pointing us in the right direction, to vehemently insisting Neil have a seat on a rickety stool while waiting outside a Hammam for me – then not letting Neil leave without handing over money in repayment for a seat he didn’t want or need in the first place.
Things may be different in smaller towns, but the residual bitterness the Moroccans we met still have from the French and Spanish occupation, as well as the current disdain for white tourists of any sort makes me think aiming for 10,000 tourists/year by 2010 might just backfire.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful country, and I’m still really, really glad we went. We did meet some lovely people during our time there who were pleased and proud to share their culture, heritage and country with us – they just seemed to be the exception rather than the rule.
I’ve got some really great and really fond memories of the place – but I also know that with a whole world out there to explore, I didn’t fall in love with it and I’ll probably never go back. And that’s a bit of a strange feeling to have.