Sizing Me Up

I was reading about Marrakech this morning before breakfast and came across the following post on LonelyPlanet.com.  It pretty accurately describes what I have already experienced.

At one time Morocco used to be absolutely terrible with faux guides and touts that wouldn’t let go until you were at the  screaming point.

And then the results of a quite famous tourism survey in the early 1980s were shared at high government levels. When asked ‘would you return to Morocco?’ a massive 97% of respondents said no, quoting problems with touts, unofficial guides, scams and the like in Marrakech, Fez and Agadir.

The government–looking to increase tourist revenues–took this very seriously and this is what prompted the formation of the Brigade Touriste (Tourist Police) and the regulations to prevent the faux guides. Nevertheless this doesn’t prevent the situation that Moroccans have a sixth sense for greenness, and some greedy shopkeepers/hoteliers/restaurant owners/taxi drivers won’t miss an opportunity to squeeze ridiculous amounts of money out of inexperienced people. Whether or not they try it on depends on how they size you up.

Yesterday I was approached several times by the street touts.  They are on every street and are of all ages, but mostly they are less than 20.  It goes without saying they are all male.  They are often seen kicking a soccer ball around to pass the idle time.  It is a different atmosphere than the “Hey Mister” and “Excuse me” opening sales banter on the streets of Luxor.  There is more intimidation here.  Few people speak or read english but everyone speaks arabic and french.  

Last night on my walk back to the hotel after dinner – it was past 11 PM – I was approached by a man in his 20’s that started yacking in my face in french.  I thought he was asking if I was lost but was unsure – I do not speak any french.  (Are you lost?  May I help you find something?   Great opening lines to all tourists here because navigating the place is worse than a fucking corn maze in Iowa on a moonless night without a flashlight).  I replied “english” and kept walking.  He continued to talk to me, getting up in my face.  I again said “english, I only speak english, no french”.  I waved him off as I briskly walked away saying “No french.”  He raised his voice, saying something in french and then started waving his arms back at me, as I had done to him.   I then heard him say “Fuck You” with a french accent.  I said “Fuck You” back to him as he walked away.

Today, as I wander the streets, I will be more assertive, confident and direct as the locals “size me up”.  

I want to find the tannery section of the medina, but it is Friday and many shops will probably be closed.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/06/africa_marrakesh0s_tanneries/html/1.stm

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