Water Sellers / Beggars / Intrusive People, Marrakesh
The water sellers are men dressed in very colourful suits, with big hats and lots of coppers cups hanging on their chest. They are supposed to sell water from their letter deposits, but their main purpose is to have a typical picture for the tourists. They will call you with the sound of theirs cups and will try to take your attention.
They will ask you for money, a high quantity in fact, but they don't expect to be paid, but to begin bargaining.
Unique Suggestions: María and me were walking with Abdul, our private guide, so we filled "protected" from all tourist traps in town. Anyway, have a picture with one of these guys looked nice for us, so we allow them to come. The best ever tip Abdul told us is that we need to pay just to one of them, apparently their boss, and after the day they will share the money, so don't be bothered in two or three are coming for your picture. Pay just to one of them!! 10 Dirhams, 1€, could be fine.
Fun Alternatives: If you don't want to bargain at all and you don't care about them, my main piece of advice is not have eye contact with them. Never! If you look at them directly, be sure that one second later you're going to be followed by them.
If you want a picture without paying, just take it quickly with a good zoom from behind. Never in front of them because if not they can be one a bit aggressive.
André's tips to Marrakesh:
DON’T SHOW NERVOUSNESS- even if your knees are shaking.
BE EASY GOING- Moroccans are outgoing people, and most of them well intentioned. Keep that in mind and you’ll see that many times even after declining whatever they’re offering, you’ll be greeted with a ”welcome to morocco”
BE POLITE – works on every corner of the planet
BE FIRM – if you are not interested tell it. No one can force you into a deal you are not interested in.
AGREE ON PRICES FIRST- if you start to eat without seeing a list, if you get in a cab without knowing the price, you’ll be majorly ripped-off. Once the price is set they are trustworthy and respect deals. If they don’t, call them on that. “Business is Business”.
BARGAIN – it’s the national sport, it can be extremely fun, and the locals will look at you with greater respect and approval. If you don’t get your desired price pretend to leave. They will always call you back with a lower offer.
LEARN THE CANNED PHRASE- there’s a bunch of canned expressions the business men will throw at you upon knowing your provenience. In my case it would be “Sardinha Assada” and “Bancarrota” (“grilled sardines” and “financial crisis”)- you guessed, I’m Portuguese. Throw that phrase at them before they get the chance to say it. That really catches them off guard, and they will let you go with a laugh. Other option might be pretending you’re Portuguese or Greek(even better) all the time…
CARRY SMALL CHANGE – you’re expected to tip at several occasions. Carrying a wallet with small change makes it less stressfull and confusing
BUBBLE GUM – or any other type of candy, to offer children when they ask you for money –that they never get to keep. Nothing like a true smile from street children.
AVOID DARK REMOTE ALLEYS – no need to explain much on this
AVOID THE SNAKE CHARMERS - if you don't want to get insulted for not giving them 20 euros after taking a pic. I couldn't care less, as i turn around after tipping way less than that
YELABA – If you or one of your friends is Moroccan-looking enough for it- dress one of this, and pretend to be the guide of the group. It’s guaranteed to keep other business man away, and It’s fun as hell
SALAM ALEKUM – Greet people that way and be answered back with “Alekum Salam”. Shows you come in peace
This is my guide on how to save some dirhams and avoid uncomfortable situations while having fun at the Medina of Marrakesh. Adapt it to your personality and you should do good. I took the time to do it after reading so many unjust frightening reviews. I’ll use a roller coaster as metaphor. Some people love them, some people are terrified even to look at them. It doesn’t mean they’re utterly dangerous. Only for the faint of heart – just like Marrakesh
So don’t forget, put your best attitude and prepare for the ride, and if your anxiety levels get too high, the Mountains are only 50 km away and if waterfalls and fresh air won’t do it for you either, then nothing will ;)
In the 'Good Old Days' there were proper Water Sellers in Marrakesh, now you have brightly dressed beggars. Seriously, look at the guy in the first picture. He looks like a big girl's blouse. I doubt they even carry water half the time. They strategically place themselves at the entrances of the more tourist-oriented sites. I ran into this guy outside of the Saadian Tombs. More peacock than anything. Their whole existence is letting you take a picture of them in their Hollywood costumes and then asking to be paid. Where's the water then?
Get a good long lens/high optical zoom, snap the picture and then .... RUN!
Hint – take their picture after you have visited the museum/tomb/site so that you can run away.
Take a look at the guys selling tea in the streets. You don’t see them all tarted up. And they sell tea! And they do not beg! In fact if you want to enjoy real Moroccan culture, have a nice sweet tea from one of the Tea Sellers. They work very hard for their money.
The square is very exciting however it is very hectic. You WILL be approached about 5-10 times walking through the square at least. I would suggest only putting about 20-40 dirhams NO MORE in your wallet. Most people ask for like 200 dirhams for pictures which is absurd. They will argue with you if you tell them no but stick to it. Show them your empty wallet if necessary and tell them thats all you have. I think giving them $2 dollars for a picture is more then enough. If you feel its necesary to give 20 more dirhams then go for it. If you are not interested in any of the "traps" in the square then just keep walking through....avoid eye contact.....and if they get pushy or follow you around just give them a firm no thank you. Some will get down right rude with you and cuss you out but just ignore. We had one beggar ask for a cigarette which I did not have then he proceded to ask for money. I told him sorry then he says F... your country....F you.....and then spits on us. I fought back the urge of knocking him on his rear and kept on walking. My blood was boiling and took a minute to settle down. Anyways its a very exciting country just be prepared to deal with this type of stuff because its going to happen.
You can't help but visit the Djemma El Fna (La Place or The Square) 'cause it's a UNESCO site, but your patience is definitely going to be tested here. Everyone wants you to pay them. We paid a psychic and my friend got a Henna tatoo (after constant begging and pleading and stalking by the artist) which was at least money for something... but the dudes who tip their hat and do a two-step wanting a handout? Come on guy. My friend likes monkey so when a couple of guys came over with them and said "picture, picture" of course we took pics with the monkeys on our arms. Then one of them says 200 dirham... each. No way, no day. 200 dh is like $15. This guy was out of his mind. I told him we'd just delete the photos but they kept saying "no, no... 200 dh." I just shook my head and gave him a 10 dh coin, which is still a lot for a picture.
Unique Suggestions: Stay as inconspicuous as possible. Try to either walk behind other tourists so they make a blocking path for you or stop for just a second, then keep walking. The dancing cobras are really cool... but observe from afar or just watch as you walk by. Stop and you'll have two or three guys jumping at you saying "photo, photo." We know what that means. Also, the evening is less frenetic. There are more locals around and more people to hide behind.
Fun Alternatives: There really is no alternative. You just have to brave The Square at least once. It's one of the highlights of this place. Just be careful. Also, walking across the street helps, too. All the cars rushing by is a natural protectant against the jumpy guys in The Square.
Upon entering the mellah you will be hounded by young to middle-aged men who will dog your every move offering to take you to see the "synagogue". The mellah is the historically jewish quarter and is interesting from that perspective alone, these days it's really little more than a stinky, run-down slum which is not very well-policed. It's annoying during the day and downright dangerous after dark. Also, there's little of architectural interest, looking much the same as other, less rank, parts of the medina.
The oldest surviving synagogue is mildly interesting, being guarded by an old blind man and all, and you really won't find it without the help of a guide. Arrange a price in advance (10DH is sufficient) and then stick to it when the time comes to pay up. I haven't been to the other 'gogues, but I assume that they're less interesting.
Unique Suggestions: Go to the cemetery! The Jewish cemetery can be found easily without the help of a guide. Just follow the main road that leads into the mellah from the Bahia Palace. It's quite interesting, and usually deserted, too (most tourists get fed up with the hassle and return to the better policed parts of the medina before finding it). The groundskeeper is quite nice and informative. Be sure to leave a nice donation when you leave (he'll suggest it, but is not at all pushy).
Djemaa el Fna is well known for its snake charmers; whenver you hear a sort of a trumpet being played, that's where you'll find a snake charmer, or a group of them. They are there with their vipers and cobras, posing for photographs for tourists...
Unique Suggestions: Since it's impossible to avoid seeing them in the square, do take some photos - you'll have to pay for them if you take them from close-up, but from the distance they won't mind very much if they get money or not.
In the square in the Medina, you will undoubtedly come across a man with a monkey who may very quickly ensure that you 'wear' the monkey and then he will demand money for the 'privilige'. Firstly and foremost, this is a cruel life for the monkey, I would encourage you not to indulge this person in his trade.
Myself and my husband were looking at some leather bags when a man asked us to go with him. He spoke very broken English saying "I like to show you more bag and leather, and where leather made". Doubting ourselves we walked towards the way he was taking us. We thought it would be interesting but knew there would be a cost involved. So I asked how much it would be, he said free, free, because oyou are good frineds. He then took up to some tanneries, they stunk, were very dirty and unhealth and I was worried that we could have caught something, flies and rotting skin everywhere. He took us to a tiny room where one mad was making bags in crapped conditions which were also very dirty. He then took us onto a shop. Where a man started to display shoes, and everything, it started to becom embarassinf because we didn't want anything.
We explained we were going and the man became angry saying "my things are no good, you say they are bad" etc etc Then from nowhere the origional mad arrived, demanding what equalled about £60.00 we said no but by then we had no idea where we were or how to get back to the main area. Clearly we in back streets where it was only people living, no tourists and therefore everyone staring at us. The man started shouting in arabic, we gave him some small money, and said we didn't have anything else. I was worried my husband would open his wallet and he would then see that we did have £60.00, anyway we got away fine, but for a few minutes I was very scared.
Fun Alternatives: Go on an organised trips of the tanneries, or do not bother. There is nothing that much to see and they are not nice places.
Unique Suggestions: I loved Marrakech but please be advised that you should, at least, try to look like where you’re going.
It was a bitter lesson - being insulted on the street for saying I didn’t need a guide – but one that was valid. Basically Moroccans in the Medina are ALL on the make (not necessarily so in the new town) and so you should try to avoid entering into conversations with them. It sounds harsh but they’re only friendly until it comes down to money. Then it always gets sour. Of course it you’re actually after the services and goods they sell then great – it’s the fact that they want money for directions (which is an offensive idea from an English point of view) photo’s or whatever. They track you in the streets, constantly nag and won’t leave you alone unless you either ignore them or wave them of with a smile. I recommend the latter; be absolutely unequivocal – if you’re with someone just keep up your own conversation and pretend the person haranguing you doesn't exist. They need money but you have to clearly show that this is not the way to get it.
I had a horrible experience at the tanneries in Marrakech. Please read on so you can be prepared too.
I went to the tanneries with the intention to pop in and take a few pictures and pop out again. We certainly didn't need a guide to do that. As soon as we approached the entrance, a couple of guys (which I would like to add, were tall and seem well fed unlike most frail Moroccan ) offered us mint and insisted we use one of them as our guide. We told one of them that we didn't need his services since we just wanted a couple of pictures. Well this guy was persistent and followed both my husband and I into the tanneries while constantly asking if I needed to take pictures. I ignored him and left after 2 minutes which is all I could bear. At the exit he asked me for money and I reluctantly gave him 20 dirham. I felt he should have gotten less but we had no smaller change.
This person immediately changed from nice to nasty. He told me that 20 dirham was "nothing". I asked him if he owned the place and told him if he wasn't happy, he could give me the 20 dirham back. His other counterpart decided to join in then and said to me "YOU COW!!" That's when I turned nasty and had a few words to say to him myself. I then told both of them that I would warn other travellers about them.
Unique Suggestions: My advice to you guys if you want to see this place, is to either go with your own guide, or bring your own mint and be firm with them from the beginning that if they insist on following you in, that they will not receive a tip. At the end of the day, there is no cost to enter the tanneries and perhaps you can afford to give them more but if you do so, then they will expect the same from other tourist, and if they don't receive it, they will try
to intimidate them into giving more.
I was walking to the Majorelle Gardens when I became aware of a man walking alongside of me.He started to talk and came out with the old "I'm a waiter at your hotel" routine,which I am quite used to.He asked me where I was going and I told him and he then informed me that the Gardes were closed that day but he could take me to a Local Berber market which was only in Marrakech once a month.We gaot a taxi and seemed to drive for miles and I was getting a bit concerned about being alone with two strange men going God knows where!We eventually got to the market which wasn't a market but a very expensive co-operative.I felt bullied into buying a very expensive"cheap" bracelet that was supposed to be silver but wasn't.I refused to buy anything else and asked the man to get me a taxi as I wanted to go to my Hotel.As one came,he also asked me for money for bringing me to the market!I gave him a small amount but also told him what I thought about the whole thing.Needless to say,ifound out that the gardens were not closed at all and the so called monthly Berber market was open all the time.You live and learn-even at ny age!
water seller are really pintoresc and beautifull photo subjects ask them in advance for the price for the picture or you show him first how much you are offering, take the picture and do not drink the water is a very bad taste and is from the fountains nearby ( i did drink, was discousting flavor )
The Medina or marketplace looks and sounds like a great place to see the local culture and pick up some trinkets. But, be warned, it's very disappointing and may leave you with your blood boiling.
A note from my professors brochure:
"Snake-charmers and their bored reptiles entertain the tourists. Dentists display heaps of teeth and ham it up for foreigners. Often merchandise is shoddy but the craftsmen are not enticed to do better when tourists buy the poorly made items. Since most of these people have never traveled except for a trip to Mecca, they believe Allah has sent we fools for them to partake of. Their Berber blood can make the merchants assertive to the level of aggression. You can expect that a rebuff will not be accepted graciously. Marrakesh has a long history of cursing, so don't take their response personally. Develop nerves of steel and play deaf. "
While walking through the marketplace I used those words of wisdom. However, while I was looking a one vendor, a group of men came up and put a monkey on my shoulder. The next thing I knew, they were all yelling and demanding money--I supposed since the monkey had sat on my shoulder. They weren't going to let me budge until I gave them monkey and meanwhile, the monkey was pulling at my hair. It took a male professor with our group to get me out of the situation and get them to leave us alone.
Unique Suggestions: Go in a large group & watch your back (and your shoulders for monkeys)!
Fun Alternatives: There are plenty of vendors around other tourist areas (hotels, near palaces, etc.) that sell the same stuff.
We had spent hours in the souks, and felt a little lost....the main problem was that we were near the tanneries. This is where you will be offered many trips to the tanneries, people will start to follow you, and even though you have not asked and they are following you they may ask for money for taking you the right way!
We met a man close to the tanneries who said that he would take us around and show us them. So we thought it would be interesting, I asked how much and the man said nothing. We looked round and at the end of the tour got dropped off at a large shop selling every leather. A man then started to put on a display of all his items, getting all the slippers, poufees out etc. We felt embarrassed as we didn't want to buy any of the items. So we decided to leave at the start of the display rather than the end! The man shouted at us, and suddenly the first man arrived. Asking why we didn't want anything, and then demanding £50.00 for the tour. This is the only time I have felt scared as the man was aggressive and we were in an area where there were hardly any people around. We managed to leave giving him only a small amount of money, but I was worried as if I had got my purse out he would have seen we had more money that what we had told him. On the way back we then got followed the entire journey by a man who then demanded the equivalent of £20.00 when we said no, the man then started to make a scene, so we gave him a small amount of money. My tip here is to say "we do not want a guide, and we will go to the tourist police" .....this makes people disappear in a flash. The tourist police are very good.
Unique Suggestions: If you are in this situation say something like "we do not want a guide, and we will go to the tourist police" ....