I've been meaning to write for a while now about Morocco and Marrakech, but haven't been able to find the words, so that will have to come later. After a couple nights of bad sleep, I was having a fairly grumpy day today and I was thinking about the nature of the way of life in developing or 'poor' countries and how those in the tourist trade deal with tourists. This is going to be one of those rambling posts with no point, so check out now if you just want to hear what I've been doing lately.
I was walking with the better half of a couple I met on the train to Marrakech and we were being constantly harassed by a string of shop owners - 'hello, my friend', 'come in, just to look', 'where you from?' and Sam mentioned to me how she'd like to go into the shops and browse, but doesn't want the pressure from a hovering salesman. This isn't the first time I've heard that comment and it surprises me that traders also haven't worked this out and adjusted their behaviour accordingly. I know you should adjust your behaviour when your experiencing a different culture, but shouldn't it be a two way street?
The other thing that I noticed is the lack of innovation. If I were to start a business, I wouldn't open a cafe in Salamanca or a resteraunt in North Hobart, however you will you will often walk past shop after shop after shop selling the same thing - be it papyrus, lanterns, spices etc etc etc. Then on the other hand, when there's something you actually want it can be really hard to find- the Lonely Planet mentions Moroccan cooking courses in Marrakech, but of the three names it supplies, none answered their door when we knocked and the one that did answer their phone isn't doing them any more. It can't be through lack of interest, cause two other girls on my desert tour mentioned they were going to do it as well.
Every guide and travel book talks about how the most rewarding aspect of travel is getting to know the locals and sharing a meal with them. But when you're seen simply as a being to sell things to, this sort of interaction goes out the window. I admit I fell for the 'Come and have tea with me in my shop and enjoy Egyptian hospitality' a few times to begin with, but no tea ever appeared - only pile after pile of mass produced papyrus. No discussion on the differences between my country and your country, just you like this, how much you pay, how about this? The consequence of this is you end up automatically saying no to anyone who engages you in the street, cutting yourself off from the potential local who may be interested in meeting a foreigner.
Then you've gotta put yourself in their shoes. If I was working in my new failing cafe in Salamanca trying desperately to compete with Machine and Sals' and Bill Gates walks into the square, I'm not going to want to sit and discuss with him the merits and problems of the US - I'm gonna get him in the door and salivate over the tip he'll leave.
I'm in Fes at the moment and the pushiness factor is the worst I've seen so far this trip. I reached breaking point last night, not as bad as my rage blackout last year in Vietnam, but enough for me to almost deck a guy who was being particularly persistent. We were in the budget ghetto and being harassed at all angles by hotel touts and restaurant owners, they were grabbing us into their place of business and we were copping a fair bit of abuse when we didn't choose their establishment. I was called 's***face' and others were called 'cold hearted' and 'racist'. Thing is with these guys is that they're well dressed and look well fed. We walked past later and they apologise and try to get you in again, it's just the way they behave here - one of the downsides to popular tourist destinations. Guidebooks say you should be polite and just smile and say no and not to be rude. I've decided to stop worrying about offending people who are so offensive. They all think I'm from Spain anyway so it's not like I'm giving Aussies a bad name.
Peace out y'all and OMG keep it real