Hustlers

Continuing on the subject of being a tourist in a tourism economy, is the issue of people trying to hustle tourists. Throughout the major cities, but primarily in tourism capitols like Fes and Marrakech, there are many individuals aggressively trying to get the tourists money; guys following you, insisting that you want to buy hash, or go into their friends shop (from which they receive a commission) or eat at their restaurant or take a picture with their monkey, etc. In the Jemmaa al Fnaa square in Marrakech, the henna artists have been known to grab tourists by the arms, henna them and demand payment. Basically where there’s lots of tourists, there are lots of people trying to hustle the tourists. I’m sure tourists in America have similar experiences.

I used to be bitter and frustrated with these entrepreneurs, following me, nagging me, trying to sell me one thing or another. I can’t say they don’t still frustrate me, but, as my ability to speak the language has improved, so has my attitude. As I have become more fluent in Moroccan Arabic, graduating from being able to just say “no thank you,” to giving a full explanation as to why I do not need what ever they are selling, I have found a) that people are more willing to leave me be and b) that I may even end up involving myself in a full conversation with these individuals. When conversation happens, we often cease viewing each other predator and prey and I often find that the hustler is actually a decent person. They may even cease trying to sell me anything and begin insisting that they buy me tea. I may find the profession obnoxious, but I don’t know the hustler’s full story and what other options he/she may have, so I find it best to approach them (or avoid them) with as little judgement as possible.

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