Hey you, yes, you there, who’s packing their clothes in that grey suitcase. Give me your attention for some minutes, would you? I know I talk a lot, but this will be short, I promise. Don’t look for me, I am not in your head. Yes, I am the travel genie, yes, the one you have decided to ignore several times. The one who has analyzed all the information you skipped about Morocco, what people told you about that country and what a certain article in Visiter l’Afrique talking about why you should add Morocco on your bucket travel list – and that you have followed- told you too. I am here to prevent you to make the same un-travel-like mistakes again. Good, I have your attention now. So this is it, this is happening, you have finally decided to embark in this exciting life journey that is coming to Morocco, and I am absolutely proud of your decision. You have booked your flight, booked your ticket, announced you are travelling on Facebook and took a selfie with clothes scattered on your bed and in your suitcase in the background for Snapchat.
So far, you are doing great. But, hey, let me ask you a question. What do you think travelling is about? Yes, going for adventure, looking for the unknown, seeking to open your mind to other cultures and discover new people and new ways of living, right answer.So, this is why you are travelling, right? Yes? This is why you are going to this whole new world that is Morocco, right? Yes? Alright. Are you willing to apply your definition of travel to your trip to this country? Yes? Alright, we’ll see.
You have taken your flight and you are landing right now in Mohammed V airport, in Casablanca. Surprise not surprise, this isn’t JFK nor Charles de Gaulles, this is the typical airport of a developing country. You take the train, and as comfortable and secure as it is, you are still comparing it to trains in your country. Arrived to Casa Voyageurs, you are overwhelmed by the crowd of taxi drivers who offer to drive you to your destination. If you accept, you might discover later that you have paid three times the price of the ride. I have been ripped off because you clearly look like a foreigner, you will say. Nein, mein Freund, nein. This, too, happens to moroccans who still have not apprehended the rule of train station cabs.
So here’s the thumb rule to know when hailing a red cab in Casablanca :
- The starting price on the counter is 2 MAD, and the minimum price to pay is 7,50 MAD, with the amount of the ride increasing by 0,20 MAD per 80 meters.
- Make sure the counter is started, and if not, gently require the driver to do so.
- Starting from 8 p.m, you pay a majoration of 50%.
(More information here)
- If you want to go to Mohammed V Airport, the fixed price is 250 DHS.
- The white big taxis you see are called “taxi kbir” and they are usually cheaper and can take more people for 6 MAD.
- If you prefer to book your taxi in advance, you can try :
During your taxi ride, you must have encountered in the traffic jams some beggers, a man riding a donkey, a little girl selling tissues in a traffic light, and since you are in Casablanca, many open trash bins and even trash piling up around while a passing man throws an empty can on the pile and not inside the trash bin. You are outraged and “In my country, we do not…” whirls up in your head. Yes, you have just said it. In your country. Not in Morocco. Not in a country trying its best with the little wealth and resources it has to fight all possible existing problems. “But this wasn’t in the pictures!”, you protest. Really? Aren’t photographs only a translation of a chosen perspective? “Then this is false advertising!”. No, that is not either false advertising. “ Then, what, are you going to tell me I am imagining all of this?”. Nein, neither. What I am going to tell you is that the pictures you saw and that were so mouthwatering and dream-like about Morocco are real, and that Morocco in pictures exists and is real, and it is wonderful and magical and jaw-breaking. But I am sorry to announce to you that not every house looks like The Mamounia Palace, we’ll try to fix this soon *insert sarcastic smile here*. Seriously? Where did your travel principles go? Where is the open-mindedness towards the whole new experience? That this place you are visiting is definitely unlike your comfort zone, and that this is exactly why you are there? Wasn’t that the whole point, cher ami ?
This is the first thing you should know : Morocco is a “developing” country, and if you are coming from a “developed” or advanced “developing” country, you might be starting to experience what I call : the EPHD lag. In other words, the Economic Political Human Development lag. This happens when you are used to a way of living including a high level of comfort and then you arrive in a place struggling to keep the average acceptable level of comfort – according to your norms-. This is the first perceptional hurdle you will have to jump. Remember, a traveler is an open-minded person who understands that not all countries in the world are as wealthy as theirs. If your travel experiences are narrowed to the G20-like countries, then trust me, and it with joy that my country will challenge your perception of the world and expand your vision. You are welcome.
The EPHD lag does not include, however, that you have to get ready for an intensive course of Bargaining 101. Your first class will happen when you will set foot in a bazaar, in the souk, or in the alleys of the medina market. Bombarded everywhere by intrusive sellers, you might get annoyed and tired. But hey, this happens in every touristy place in the world, no? And this is also to take lightly. I have met a man so upset about this that it was clear his travel-chill level was really low. This is not also something to take as fatalistic. Some tricks to know, a firm “lla chukran” here, a “mabghitch” there, and you will be left alone. You can even make your Ron Swansonn ( from Park and Recreation tv show) face if that helps. And about bargaining, if that can comfort you, I am a 20 years old moroccan and I still fail at bargaining and am likely to pay more than the item’s price – although I have exponentially improved these last years to the point that even shop owners that try to rip me off would give me a B+. Proud of your girl?
That was the not-cool thing that sellers do, but here is the not-cool thing that I have witnessed many tourists doing. Bargaining in a bazaar or in medina souk with the shopkeeper is okay. Bargaining with a poor cooperative craftsman is not cool. This artisan works really hard for hours and days, on the expense of his health- to manufacture this zellij piece or this carved wood you admire. This is his only livelihood, not even the equivalent of the SMIC. He has got a family to feed, bills to pay and offering him the 1/10 of the value of his goods is insulting and definitely not cool. Allow me to expand.
So, this is the second thing to know : There are times to bargain, and times where bargaining is literally taking away food from the craftsman mouth. But don’t worry, you are a traveller, and a traveller is someone who respects and tries to support and help the local community he visits. Therefore, you will quickly learn to make the difference between the two. No pasa nada.
Oh, it’s mint tea time. The next EPHDs and things you should know before visiting Morocco will come in the next episode of “Travelling to Morocco”.