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Morocco in a Nutshell

I wanted to write a final post on Morocco to tell everyone my impressions.  When we first got there, we were confused, stressed out, and overwhelmed.  It is a very crowded, noisy, disorienting place. There´s a million things going on at once and one never knows what´s around the corner.  It is a brutal assault on the senses.  Smells of inscence, decaying animal hides, spices, donkey poo, and the best food smells of your life.  I remember walking back to the hotel passing a building with flowers so pungently sweet it stopped us in our tracks.  At other times, the smells would be so bad, I would get nauscous.  That is Morocco in a nutshell.  A country that lives in the extreme.  It takes a long time to get your bearings.

The most interesting thing about Morocco is the people.  Some are so overly friendly, it´s scary.  When you go into a store to buy something, for example, it is common for them to make you tea and sit down and chat.  This is unnerving for a Westerner that just wants to buy a souvenir.  However, there are also people who will scam you.  Some scams we ran into is as follows:

1. When going to a restraunt, don´t assume anything put on the table is complimentary.  Many times the bread or olives they place on the table do not come with the meal.  If you eat it, you will pay for it.  Always ask first.

2. Assume if someone is doing you a favor, such helping you find a sight or get a taxi, they will want a tip.  However, we have had MANY people help us out and refused a tip later on.

3.  When getting off a train, taxi drivers may ask you which hotel you are going to.  When you tell them, they may say it is closed and they know a place.  DON´T LISTEN TO THEM.  They often times get a commission from the hotel they are suggesting.  Another version of this is as follows: we were looking for a palace and asked a guy where it was.  He told us it was closed that day, but he knew a great shopping place.  We ignored him and kept walking. Sure enough, the palace was open.  This is a common ploy.

4.  Tour guides often make commission if they take you to a carpet shop or a similar store.  The shop keepers mark up the price and then give a cut to the guide.  You will almost always pay more than if you went by yourself.  Many times, these shops are VERY interesting to go to.  They often have artists that demonstrate how the objects are made.  However, there can be enormous pressure to buy.  The salespeople are masters at selling so it is important to figure out ahead of time what you can afford and also get an idea of what you want to buy.  If you aren´t sure, walk out of the shop and if you want the item later, you can always come back.  Things happen very fast in Morocco and you could be walking out of a shop a few hundred dollars (or more) poorer with something you don´t really want.  Which brings me to the next point.

5.  Get good at saying “No”.  If you aren´t good at it now, you will be when you leave Morocco.  People will always be wanting to sell you something, so get used to it.  Only buy something you really want.

6.  Though sticking to a budget is great, try to allow a little bit of wiggle room in your budget.   Who knows, you may want that extra sovenir.  In the off chance you get scammed, it will be alot less painful.

Sometimes with all the hassle, it is easy to assume everyone wants money from you.  The fact is, there are genuinely nice people from all over Morocco, but at first it is difficult to tell who is being friendly and who is out to make a buck.  This takes time.  We were in Morocco for a few weeks and we haven´t come close to figuring it out.  This is one of the many things that makes Morocco interesting.  Morocco isn´t known for its sights.  You have to experience it.  Be ok with getting lost and confused.  Keep loose and flexible and you´ll have an unforgettable experience.

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