Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Guided Tour

"Do you want me to call a guide or do you just want to walk around alone?" I was sitting in my guesthouse on Sunday morning, sipping coffee in the central room while Josephine spoke to me from across the table.

Yesterday, I had intended to get lost alone in the souks. Today, I had changed my mind. Last night, no less than three young men had attached themselves to me when I'd walked back from therestaurant. It's only a ten-minute walk. No sooner had I shaken one would-be guide or tout, then another would materialize at my elbow. One had at least made me laugh. "I don't want to be your guide. I want to be your bodyguard from other guides."

"I think I'll need a guide. I can't stand the hassle."

She called a man named Ali, who showed up in a long Jedi cloak. There are both Jedi Knights and Jawa outfits in Morocco. I haven't been to Tunisia, where much of the original Star Wars was filmed, but I suspect the same style of clothing was popular there at the time. And while I haven't seen any motor scooters of this sort on my current trip, the last time I was in Morocco, "Jawa" brand motor scooters were everywhere.

Ali escorted me around the Medina, showing me historic schools and mosques, as well as pointing out cultural differences.

"That is where wedding chairs are rented for ceremonies. No family buys these—they always rent because styles of wedding chairs change with fashion. And these threads here—they are being prepared for sale. Those are political posters."

It was good to have a guide like Ali. He took me into a store to overlook the tanners souk, but he didn't seem to care if I bought anything. I saw a gorgeous sky-blue leather bag... but when I asked the opening price and it was 350 dirham ($46), I decided there was nothing there that I really needed. Even at half the price, I didn't want the bag.

The same thing had happened at the pottery village the night before. Prices had been even higher than the value of the item. I understand I'm supposed to bargain, but I knew there was no way I'd get the prices down to anything I considered acceptable.

Once Ali dropped me off, I walked to a place called Cafe Clock for the most expensive falafel I've had since the first time I went to Egypt and didn't know not to order food in a tourist restaurant in Khan El-Khalili. One problem, besides me frequenting tourist joints here in Morocco, is that the euro is kicking the dollar's butt. Everything in Morocco is priced in euros.

I'm financially doomed this time out.

Maybe it serves me right for all those years of traveling when the dollar was king.

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