Thursday, September 21, 2006

Travel writing about Morocco - part four

After reading a lot of very badly written travel stories we have found one worth passing on. We came across it in the online Daily Trojan - the magazine of the University of Southern California. The author, Joe Horton has a thriller writer's sense of pace and style - and a sense of humour. He and his friends have a typical first timer experience in Fez and (thankfully) are wise enough to laugh at their own mistakes.

Here is an excerpt followed by a link to the original story.

I sipped my mint tea and prepared for death.

How do I answer him? I don't speak Arabic. His breath was hot in my ear. He cracked his knuckles.

"I'd like to go now please," I whispered.

The man approached.

And the darkness closed in.

One day earlier, Kate, Tim and I had arrived at the Hotel Batha-Fez on the outskirts of the Medina - a bustling, bazaar-filled enclave in the holiest city in Morocco. Caked with the dust of two continents, we hoped to take a shower but were informed that the hot water was only turned on from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Fine. We'll take a swim in the hotel pool instead. There was a sign on the door, however, and the French translated as such: Think's To Not Use The Napkins In The Pool

Unsure of whether this meant that people were eating or being eaten in the pool area, we elected to fall into a dirty slumber.

We met our "Ministry of Tourism"- approved guide, Tariq, in the lobby at 9 a.m. He looked like a Moroccan Obi-Wan Kenobi, and I couldn't help but think that his robed getup was somehow just a show for the tourists, considering no one else was wearing one.

Tariq didn't waste any time showing us why he was an official guide. He knew ALL of the scams. Apparently, a "guide" means "a guy who shows you around to his friends who will sell you things at outrageous prices." It didn't take us long to realize we'd be better off on our own, and it didn't take us long after that to realize being on our own was a terrible, terrible mistake.

Tariq showed us into a massive rug factory that doubled as an elegant sweatshop. Perhaps sensing our resistance at being scammed, Tariq let us wander in alone. Scarf-covered women popped their heads out of doors before loud, manly voices screamed at them and they ducked back inside. I was sure I'd find "HELP" stitched into a lovely throw rug.

Read the full story here: The Road to Morocco


1 comment:

Kalila said...

it is very easy to get caught in all the scams and I don't think there is a tourist who visited Marocco who doesn't have a story to tell! I thought I was clever but I also got caught in a scam that cost me a lot of money. Three beautiful carpets for the price of a small house in Fes I think and that lost their colour in about a month after my visit. But I still smile and shake my head every time I walk over them. At the price I paid for them I have to admire the salesman and my own stupidity, but I will enjoy them until they - or I - fall apart.