When a friend Whatsapp’d me to tell me she was going to Morocco and wanted me to join her, I was doubtful at first. At the time, I was in Paris, she was at the other end of the world in Indonesia. I didn’t know anything about Morocco and it wasn’t on my bucket list. I didn’t even know it’s exact location on the map ! She said that if I went together with her, she’d fly to Paris to meet me and we could fly out together. She was planning to arrive in about 10 days and she didn’t have any idea where she wanted to go but was “working on it”. To cut a long story short, I agreed to her plan of hiring a private driver and going on a tour of the royal cities of Morocco. I was happy to leave the organisation to someone else for a change. Before long I was on a bus to Orly Airport to catch our Air Maroc flight to a place I didn’t really know anything about. We happened to meet an American tourist on the way to the airport. When we told him where we were heading, he said, “Nice place. Moroccans are very good sales people.” and smiled. Little did we know the full extent of his words.
The Pop-Up Tour Guide from Nowhere
We were met at the airport by our good looking Moroccan driver who had driven 6 hours from Rabat to pick us up. He drove us to our hotel which was in the historic district of the Kasbah. When we got out of the car, there was a porter and a while later, a young man in a blue jacket turned up who appeared to know the driver and porter. We said goodbye to our driver for the day and followed the porter along the maze of cobblestone streets to our hotel. As we checked in, the young man who had met us at the carpark interacted with the hotel staff. We don’t know what they said but the hotel staff said to us “He will show you around the city”. And we thought how nice. What a wonderful welcome ! We continued to assume that the young man worked for the hotel and they were giving us a free tour of the Kasbah. So we were only too happy to go.
Carpets over a cup of Moroccan tea
Our guide seemed very knowledgable and took us to various sights as well as a few shops where we were introduced to the phenomenal sales skills of Moroccan shop owners. You walk into a shop being told “just look only”, but somehow or other, you end up being served tea and asked which carpet you want to buy. “Which is your favourite colour Ma’am?”. “How about this one?” pointing to the largest carpet of all. “No? How big is your living room ma’am?” Sorry, we live in pigeon holes. You’ll really feel obliged to buy something after all the work they’ve done but fortunately for us, we didn’t need carpets! My friend and I hardly spoke a word and gave each other cryptic looks trying to communicate “How do we get out of here?!” , and finally I was brave enough to tell the guide that after being shown twenty something carpets, we weren’t buying anything.
After an uncomfortable time sitting around carpets sipping Moroccan mint tea and not making any purchases, we were led to another shop. Again we were caught in the same scenario. “US$100 for each carpet ma’am. Best price.” turned into, “OK, US$100 if you buy 2.It’s very good offer already”. No I don’t want any carpet. But no, he didn’t hear or it didn’t matter what I said. “OK, only for you, 3 for $100 if you buy today. I only open on Mondays because today is market day. Tomorrow I am closed, only today I am open.” Hmmmm.. so what is he doing for the rest of the week I wonder.
Oh, you mean it wasn’t free?
Finally the tour of our accidental guide’s friends’ shops came to an end and we were led back to our hotel. But 20 meters away from the entrance, our guide tells us “The hotel is there, but we will stop here.. and you pay me here” and refused to walk further. We then realised that he didn’t work for the hotel and he was one of those “pop-up-from-nowhere” tour guides which sneak into your holiday like stealthy cat and then confidently whisk you away on a tour you never asked for and don’t know why you are going on. He even bought us roses. I’m serious! Being positive minded people and determined not to spoil our holiday before we even spent half a day there, we paid him a small sum for his effort and entertainment and said goodbye. Welcome to Morocco !
On another occassion, we had stopped by a town for lunch and our guide suggested a restaurant with a view that we could dine at. We walked through the entrance and up stepped a man who was seated nearby at a desk, “Hello! Table for 2? What is your name? Where are you from?” putting his arms around my shoulders. Rather friendly waiter I thought. He leads us up some stairs. On the rooftop, he asks us where we want to sit and leads us to our table. He sat with us and continued chatting with us asking lots of awkward questions. After about 5 minutes, I reminded him that we needed the menu as we needed to continue with our journey, at which point he just looked at me, got up abruptly and left as quickly as he had appeared without saying another word. We thought he had gone to get the menu but he never returned.. We then realised he didn’t even work at the restaurant and was a salesman from another company that was located next to the restaurant. We found the real waiter who was quietly standing at his station. Morocco, Morocco.
The Psychic Children
All though our trip, we had these “pop up” guides, many of whom were children who appeared from nowhere and offered to show us the way just as we got lost. We would reach a fork in the street and start looking the round. Then all of a sudden, a young boy would appear and ask us where we were going, insisting that he would show us the way. I wonder how he knew we needed directions. By then, we had had enough experiences and warnings to know not to follow anyone who offered to “show us” the way, lest we get asked for money once we reach the end or be led into a relative’s shop.
Best Salesmen in the World
Needless to say, we had an amusing time although I don’t know if others have the same sense of humour as we do. All I can say is that Moroccans are outstanding sales people. They assume all the while that you will buy something and they never give up until you are out of hearing range, i.e. you have actually left the shop! They start by coaxing you in and assuring you that you will be safe to enter and will not be expected to buy anything. They do this with such patience and politeness. “Please. Don’t be afraid. Please come in. Just have a look.”. The moment you enter their shop, you will be handed an object, offered a seat, asked what you like or shown something they think you like. And from then on, an amazing series of questions ensues leading you deeper into the shop, closer and closer to your wallet to the point where your mind can no longer resist. Moroccans are extremely persistent and do not accept defeat easily. If you want to learn to be a stellar salesperson, go to Morocco!