Thursday, May 19, 2011

Casablanca's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

'Wayward daughters. Missing Husbands. Philandering partners. Curious conmen. If you've got a problem, and no one else can help you, then pay a visit to Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's only - and finest - female private detective.'

So runs the blurb for Alexander McCall Smith's best-selling book, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. However, if you're in Morocco rather than Botswana and need similar services, look no further than Myriam Marzak in Casablanca.

Myriam (pictured above) claims she is the only woman private detective in Morocco, reports the BBC website. Most people tend to think that women can't do that kind of job, but Myriam takes on all sorts of cases, anything from finding out if someone is committing adultery to locating former employees who have stolen money from banks or insurance firms.


Myriam studied in Montpelier in France at one of the world's best detective schools. Then she worked in the French Ministry of the Interior, where she did most of her training. She returned to Morocco two years ago to set up her own agency. Myriam says that some 80% of detective school in France was about psychology - learning to read the body language and understanding the mentality of the person you’re trying to catch out. She gets to know her suspect so well that by the end she knows they are going to turn left at the end of the street before they do.

"We studied different cultures, to get to know their gestures, their way of thinking. The hardest criminals I’ve tracked are the Italian Mafia, because they are so alert and so untrusting."

"I don’t accept every case that comes my way," says Myriam. "If the client is after revenge, I won’t take the case on. And I won't help a man locate a woman without asking why. Once I’ve accepted a job, I work in absolute secrecy."

Myriam has an office, but no secretary as she fears that someone else typing up her notes could sell the information.


"People think being a detective is glamorous, but in fact it’s a lot of long, hard work", explains Myriam. "There is a lot of planning involved, it’s not like in the movies. When I’m tracking someone, for example, I sometimes need to change transport, so I’ll need to ensure I have a bicycle waiting if I can’t go by car."

in disguise?

At times Myriam has to go undercover, when disguise is helpful.

"I can't tell you all the disguises I wear," she says intriguigingly, "but believe me, I can go unnoticed anywhere from a mosque to a brothel. I could follow you for a whole day and you wouldn’t know it. Recently I followed someone for two months, every day."


What is difficult sometimes is when Myriam is investigating someone for one thing – perhaps he's run off with his wife’s money - and then she discovers he is also involved in paedophilia or child trafficking. It's beyond the remit of her case, so she'll usually go to the police about it. But often they don't have the time or resources to investigate, which is extremely frustrating for Myriam.

"Without flattering myself," asserts Myriam, "I was made for this job, because I like the depth of the work. The longer I stay on a job, the more interested I get. I’ve got the patience for it.
Sometimes there’s no time to eat, no time to take a break or go home when you’re tired. I am eaten up by my work. I find every case interesting and become obsessed."

Myriam on the streets of Casablanca

Photos: Pascale Harter

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