Scamming 101 - The Many Rip-Offs of MarrakechFriday, 2 March 2012
|The henna Nuz got on our last night. Which cost her double what it would have in London, thanks to a rather scary little girl.|
I wasn't prepared for the level of hassle we'd get in Marrakech. I was expecting a bit of banter around the souks, and a bit of pressure to buy, etc etc.
What I wasn't expecting was being hit, actually hit by men in the street. Twice.
The first time this happened we were walking through the Djemaa el Fna, the main plaza in the city where all the hustle and bustle is of an evening. We were passing the barbecue stalls (mmm... the barbecue stalls...) and avoiding getting sucked in. You walk past, and get grabbed by men with menus, trying to get you to go and eat at their stall.
And I mean really grabbed. One was so persistent after us insisting we weren't going to eat anywhere. We hadn't even looked at the stall, showed no indication of wanting to stop, and didn't get sucked into a conversation. He grabbed my arm and pulled me back towards him, which I wasn't too happy about, so I yanked my arm away. And he stone cold punched me! Right on my upper arm. Now, that area does have a surprising amount of meat to it, but it still hurt.
Needless to say, we didn't eat at his stall. When we returned a few nights later, we ate at another, based solely on the fact that Rick Stein had eaten there (they had a photo and everything). You see, that's how you get me to eat somewhere. Show me a picture of Rick Stein. Don't punch me.
The second time was in the same place, but by a man who had leapt out of the shadows to blow some kind of whistle at us, before sticking his hand in our faces for payment. After I'd recovered from the blind shock, I started to walk away. He stood in our path. So we moved around him again, and I got a whack to the arm.
Oh, I should mention that both were accompanied by the words "Fucking bitch"
Which isn't pleasant, but doesn't even compete with what Nuz was called on our second day.
After getting hopelessly lost around the souks and having no clue where our Riad was, we ended up being led by passers by. Obviously, this was for cash, though we didn't realise this initially. It also took us a little while to realise that often we were being led in the complete wrong direction, on an insanely rambling route, in order to pay out more cash.
I think we spend €20 on the first day, just through getting lost.
If you didn't want to pay, there was trouble. The issue was trying to persuade someone you didn't want directions - that you were perfectly fine just wandering. Then they would walk a little ahead in the direction you had to go, so you had no choice but to follow (or duck into a side alley when they weren't looking).
When you eventually get back to the hotel, they demand the cash. On one occasion, we really, really didn't want to be led anywhere. We knew where we were going. But there was no way to lose him. We also didn't have any money, which is why we really didn't want to be led anywhere and face that situation at the end of the trail.
We got back to the hotel, and he demanded the money. We said we had none, like we had told him at the start. Then it turned nasty. It was a dark, quiet alleyway, and he had demanded the money a little away from the hotel doors. In the end, we had no choice but to make a bit of a dash to the hotel, and wait to be let in. He followed, and was getting extremely aggressive. We were let into the hotel, and the reception guy talked to him. I thought that he would be telling him to back off, and to stop harassing customers. But no. He came back to tell us we had to pay him for his directions. So we had to change money with the hotel, and give it to him.
The next day, we passed him on the street. He walked up to us, brandishing a lit cigarette not inches from my face and hissed at Nuz
"You... you're the gentleman from yesterday. I hate you"
Getting shit from a stranger in the street is really softened when they call you a man. That tickled my funny bone for days.