I passed Sunday in Rabat’s old medina with an old friend, Sa’ad. In the Medina is a section called “jautiya,” where a number of Moroccan youth; punks, rastas and what one might equate to hipsters; spread out blankets and tarps covered in name brand clothing and accessories, each catering to a particular style. Sa’ad is one of such youth, selling skater clothes with brands like Vans, Spitfire, Volcom and so forth. Some of these vendors have little or no education, having independently developed an eye for what sells, while many have attended school for fashion design and, unable to find work, apply their knowledge to the market and even sell their own crafts, alongside the name brand goods.
To acquire their wares, these youths scour Morocco’s second-hand flea markets for the coveted brands and styles, and many even make back end connections within Morocco’s larger shops and garment factories. One might refer to these shops as a street level answer to the American vintage store, as they specialize in highly valued second-hand goods.
The atmosphere among the vendors at jautiya is one of camaraderie and even interdependence, rather than competition. They are even familiar and friendly with the legitimate shop owners they surround. However, as much as they are embraced within the market community, they lack any official permit and are thus illegitimate and illegal.
On this particular Sunday, not far into the business evening, a couple police officers came and started yelling at and harassing the vendors at jautiya. The officers; each standing above 6 feet in height, with protruding bellies, badges, epaulettes, berets, billy clubs and mustaches; were caricatures of themselves. Sa’ad explained that the cops were kicking out all of the vendors that did not pay them off, himself included. With much of the vendors being young and having resistant attitudes toward the police, this meant that most of jautiya was forced to leave, with only a few exceptions. Sa’ad was pissed, but relieved to have the rest of the day off. And this is one way the police function in Morocco.
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