It’s February 2017. That means Morocco.
I have been extremely lucky to have been to Morocco twice. In August 2009, Karma, Lauren, Will, Liam and I had a few days in Marrakech. Truly, if there is one place to visit before you die, it has to be Marrakech. Djemaa el-fna is the most wonderful souk imaginable, and is all noise, colour, action, smells – everything that stimulates the senses. Beware the water sellers though (see below).
In March 2009, I went on a 10-day tour of Morocco. It is the most amazing country, and every moment there was a lesson in life. I’m afraid I let myself be disappointed in Casablanca – maybe I expected Humphrey Bogart to be at the airport, gaze in to my eyes and say “here’s looking at you, kid”. But, of course, that was never going to happen.
Casablanca is the home of the fabulous Hussein II mosque, which according to Wikipedia (and we know that Wikipedia never lies) has the tallest minaret in the world, at 210 metres. It is an extraordinarily beautiful building, but its beauty creates a stark contrast to the rest of Casablanca.
And Fez. Don’t forget Fez. Fez is the home of the one of the largest medinas in the world, apparently it is listed as a World Heritage Site. Like Marrakech’s Djemaa El-fna, it is a wonderful assault on the senses. A visit to the tannery at Fez is another Moroccan must, although I’m sure it smells worse than Labyrinth’s Bog of Eternal Stench (I miss you, David Bowie!). They give you bunches of mint to sniff when you go in, but it is entirely ineffective – that’s how bad it is.
And so to the water sellers.
We were warned about how pushy the various tourist touts in Morocco would be. But the water sellers at the Djemaa El-fna take the cake in my experience. We were warned to always negotiate a price before taking photos of tourist touts, and ten dirham was the standard and, at about A$1, it wasn’t going to break any banks.
I asked a water seller if I could take his photo. No problems, that’ll be ten dirham. So then he called some of his mates over and said he would use my camera to take a photo of me with them. If I wasn’t so naïve, I would have heard the alarm bells then. The photo was duly taken, and I asked for my camera back. But, suddenly, the cost had gone up to 100 dirham. When I said that we had agreed on ten dirham, the water seller (the one in the middle in the photo below) reminded me that he had my camera. Ten Australian dollars later, I had my camera back.
To be fair though, I did see the water sellers giving money to the beggars in the souk, so they were prepared to spread their income around. I understand that giving alms to the poor is one of the five pillars of Islam, so I didn’t mind too much that my $10 was used in a respectful way. And they have a living to make as well. I never let any tourist touts go near my camera after that, though.