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Marrakech

Savory fare ladens stalls in Marrakech’s Djemaa el-Fna.
Photograph by Brooks Walker

Morocco: Dealing with Street Hustlers

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Turning down the road toward the village of Aït Benhaddou, our car was approached by a young boy frantically waving for us to stop. “The road is closed up ahead!” he shouted. “The river has washed part of it away. I will show you the detour.” Ignoring our little Samaritan’s offer, we drove on. Five minutes later we were in Aït Benhaddou. Once again, we were spared the irritation of an uninvited “guide” and an inevitable detour to the nearest carpet shop or restaurant.

Camel

Sand dunes occupy only a fraction of the Saharan landscape. Terrain is mostly rocky plain.
Photograph by Brooks Walker

Like rain in London or messy hotdogs in New York, hustling is an integral part of Morocco’s local color. If you feel picked on, remember that Moroccans themselves get hustled all the time. Although authorities in major cities have been successful in curtailing harassment of visitors, the country’s soaring unemployment rate and the widespread perception that all tourists are rich will probably ensure that hustling and price gouging remain constant factors in traveling there. Some general rules for easing the pain:

• Always settle beforehand what you will pay for meals, goods, and services if prices are not posted.

• Remain polite but dismissive when people approach you to offer unasked-for services or aggressively try to engage your attention. A simple “no thanks” followed by the cold shoulder will usually suffice.

• Minimize time spent in major tourist congregation points such as entrances to souks, museums, and hotels.

• Don’t bring guides into shops when you want to buy something as this usually obligates the shopkeeper to add a secret commission to your purchases.

• Practice makes perfect. The more you wander Morocco’s streets without the protective bubble of tour groups and guides, the more you will be able to deal with local hustling like native Moroccans do—with nonchalance and a sense of humor.

—Finn-Olaf Jones

Traveling with his wife, writer Finn-Olaf Jones explored Morocco’s desert reaches. Read his story, “Morocco by Camel,” in the March 2000 issue of TRAVELER.

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