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Er-Rachidia: Trust no-one

Posted by daveb on March 26th, 2008

“Trust no-one”

(Our hotelier at Er-Rachidia.)

We’re on our way to the desert. To ride a camel. We caught a coach to take us as far as we could go: Er-Rachidia, a cross-roads town where travellers change transport as quickly as they can. From Er-Rachidia we need to go south to Rissani, after which the road turns into a dirt track for about twenty kilometres to reach our desert auberge and camel (seriously, a camel).

So, how did we get on with the local transport? Badly. Really badly. And we’re not coming back to Er-Rachidia if we can help it.

We already found that the shopkeepers, snake charmers, street-food vendors, henna-tattoo ladies et al. of Marrakesh can be a little pushy towards tourists in an attempt to put food on their table, but for the most part it’s carried-out in a light-hearted way. In Er-Rachidia however, the game is very different and the faux guides and taxi-touts are ruthless and threatening. Worse, it appears that those who are not themselves touting accept this obnoxious behaviour on their doorstep.

Having paid-off the driver, touts boarded our coach and began hard-selling desert tours an hour before we got into the town. Upon arrival, we couldn’t buy bus tickets to take us to the next town as the taxi-touts had intimidated the ticket operators and, it seems, even the policeman at the station. I want to ‘thank’ in particular lanky “Mr. Intimidator” who appeared at random intervals throughout the evening to pick a fight with me. Thanks also to all the other touts (most of whom I had no prior conversation) who shouted names at me from across the street, such as “Mr. Angry”, “Man With Hard Head” and “Racist Man” (without any substance, of course).

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos to show you as I thought that it would be most unwise to flash any sort of wealth or gadgetry in this town, so you’ll just have to take it from me: This place is pants.

Comments

Comment from kasia
Time: March 26, 2008, 9:16 pm

the place was not great but i am happy i stayed there as i met a very very nice couple Claire & David i so things happened for reason :)
thanks you guys for your help:) and good luck….

Comment from andrewb
Time: March 27, 2008, 1:49 am

sounds like a ruddy nightmare!

Comment from Fiona
Time: March 27, 2008, 12:22 pm

Hi Daveb & Squiffy,
You may already use this tactic but I was reliably informed by a local in Fez to just say assertively La shukran to any person who tries to sell you stuff or hassle you. It gives the impression that at the very least you’ve not just arrived in the country and are as green as some.
It’s a shame that much of Morocco is like this but if you’re still going to Fez you’ll find it’s not anywhere near as bad as what you’ve experienced before. They have tourist police (which I did see on duty and were helpful when I asked for directions) who are there to deal with touts and faux guides, etc. I found La shukran works pretty well. There are loads of westerners in Fez as toursits but also as English teachers ( I met some when I was there and know the head of one of the schools in the new town) so the locals are used to westerners being around who are not visitors. If you can give the impression you’re one of them then you’ll become invisible!

Comment from claire
Time: March 31, 2008, 6:11 pm

Hi Fiona

Thanks for the advice! yes, we use la shukran a lot now as well as a few other Arabic phrases and a bit of French. Fes did seem to be a lot better x

Comment from daveb
Time: March 31, 2008, 6:46 pm

@kasia:
Great to meet you too. Look forward to seeing your camel photos!

@Fiona:
Great to see that you’re still following us! Thanks for your advice. Somewhat coincidentally, we also learnt “la shukran” recently. You’re right, Fez was great and a lot less hassle than the ‘desert commuter’ towns in the south-east!

Comment from Naomi C
Time: April 4, 2008, 5:56 am

That sounds scary :(

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