Whether you find yourself haggling with aggressive vendors in the legendary city of Marrakech or attempting a fine balancing act on a quirky camel somewhere in the Sahara desert, Morocco is a place teeming with colorful contradictions and a beautiful chaos that can only be experienced first-hand.
By Carter Hammett
The guidebook said to be prepared to bargain with Moroccan cabbies and make sure you have a clearly, agreed-upon price before getting into the car.
My travelling companion Darrel, appears to have taken this advice to heart as he waves off yet another cab in his efforts to secure a reasonable bargain.
We’re standing in the chaos of Marrakech, having enjoyed a pleasant afternoon in the rooms of the Maison de Photographie, a marvelous reconstructed riad—a traditional local residence with an interior courtyard—that houses an impressive collection of photography. But it’s the last day of our Morocco journey and we’re anxious to get back to our hotel in time to catch the bus that will take our weary group to the airport.
A cab pulls over.
“How much?” asks Darrel, assuming a “don’t mess with me” stance.
“200 Dirhams” comes the reply.
“Too much!” Darrel waves the cab off.
Moments later a second cab pulls up and the scenario repeats.
This time the fare is a much more reasonable 50 Dirhams, and as we set off, the driver asks us if we’d mind if he stops for “a few minutes” to attend to some business.
Fearing this means the guy’s on Morocco time, he too is dismissed and our search for the elusive cab begins anew.
Finally, a third cab pulls up, but this guy has a passenger in the front seat with him.
“So…50 Dirhams then,” we say.
“Yes 50 Dirhams,” says the driver.
We sit back, content.
“Each,” says the driver.
By this time we’re so exasperated and anxious to get back to our hotel, we decide to absorb the extra hit.
But wait…now the cab enters the chaos of the Medina we just left. Suddenly our driver’s moving down impossibly narrow winding streets at seemingly breakneck speed, missing two kids by mere centimeters, dodging oncoming bikes, cars, mopeds, pedestrians, dogs, and whatever else comes at him. An exit blocked by police means he has to double back and start again. Abruptly, the car comes to a halt: the passenger in the front seat opens the door. He exchanges pleasantries with the driver in Arabic, and nods at us as he hauls himself out.
Darrel and I look at each other, realizing our drive hasn’t even started yet.
Tune in next Tuesday for Carter’s Adventures in Morocco: Act I.