There seem to be an awful lot of them, for a start. I am not sure what happens to all the spare girls. I haven’t bothered to look up the rates of infanticide before posting.
The first thing I noticed when I initially arrived was the mark. They all have the mark. Very few Moroccan street boys don’t have a little round scar under their jawline from where someone has pressed a knife to enforce rules of some sort.
The second thing I noticed was the sliding scale of racism. One of the worst racial incidents I have ever seen was in Morocco. Two oriental people were trying to board a plane to the UK, and they were summarily dragged off it. Another East Asian from London complains bitterly on Tripadvisor on how badly he was treated in Morocco.
I am usually treated extremely well, because I am very down to earth and I am quite savvy. There is a kind of hive mind, where if you don’t piss people off, you are under the protection of a selection of random strangers, and I have been fortunate several times that I seem to be OK.
“Are you American? English? German? French? Ooooh you are Scottish.” Big smiles and offers of mint tea usually follow, thanks to the Moroccan love of football.
Besides that, Marrakech in particular is basically just the Barras and the merchant city dropped into the Sahara. If you aren’t a moron, you will be fine, but hell mend you if you are. I also recommend you do your shopping after midnight, as that is when the locals do it during the hotter months.
I could go into detail and tell you some amusing tales of people trying to rip me off, but Berbers regard this as a game, and if you win they quite like you for it. If you have an attitude or you are horrible, you will not have a good time, so basically go somewhere where your bullshit is appreciated.
I will never forget the boy who was sent to perform the carpet shop con. The carpet shop con is where a 19 year old or so is sent to offer to be your guide. He is usually quite cute apart from the scars. The boy who was sent after me on this occasion was heavily scarred and physically shaking because he knew he wouldn’t get far with me. I was bulk buying wool at the wrong end of the souk in Marrakech.
“I will show you the tannery? ” he said hopefully.
“Nope, I am buying wool.”
“Look mate, I make carpets. I’ll sell you a fucking carpet OK?” He was utterly terrified, especially when about ten of my friends mobbed him to tell him to stop. I actually felt sorry for him because I knew he would probably get another slash across the face for not managing to drag me up there.
The idea is that you get very lost in the medina, and then you are dragged to a shop where you are shown a selection of very expensive carpets whilst drinking tea and whilst the store owner figures out how much money they can sting you for. Why they wanted me is a mystery, given that I had wisely chosen to wear my studio clothes on that trip. I was as scruffy and covered in paint as everyone else.
Anyway, the training for this starts with street performance as a child. One of my favourites was a low level firework which you watched whilst a child robbed you. This time I was rescued by the food vendors in Jemaa el-Fnaa, who dissuaded the tiny team from going through my 12 pockets.
I love Berbers but don’t learn management strategy from a Berber. Ruling by fear and a knife is not the same as leadership, and lying through your teeth all day every day is not a happy way to live. By all means learn haggling, but not management.