Cheap food, typical products, Moroccan hospitality and distrust. This country does not leave indifferent, either for good or for bad…
A shawarma is how the kebab is known there. I recommend it if you want to dine cheaply and you’re tired of eating tajine or couscous. We went to the Café Restaurant l’Etoile, next to Jemaa El Fna. It has super cheap prices considering its location (about 30 MAD per person, which doesn’t even reach 3€).
When we were finishing our meal, a child approached us asking for money, but we decided to offer him our fries instead (we were full anyway).
The boy sat at our table and ate in silence the whole time, he did not bother us at any time and he just made a gesture of “thanks” when we left the bar. After all, not everyone is evil there, although we couldn’t avoid being aware of him in case he stole our phone and ran away. Maybe that’s the worst part of the trip, the distrust. Because of some who cheat you, you don’t know who to trust…
Some will try to make you believe that the place you are looking for is closed and they will guide you to another spot instead (as it happened to us in the tanners), or they will kindly offer to help you for anything and then they will ask you for money (like the tattoo artists of Jemaa El Fna and their “demonstrations”). In our case, we doubted a lot because we coincided with the Ramadan and it was more likely to find closed places, so we didn’t know whether to believe them or not. Probably, we rejected some truly disinterested help more than once, thinking that people would cheat us, and I feel sad about it, because we also met more than one who behaved very well with us, just like the vendor next to the Riad:
Next to our hotel, we always went through a store that the salesman greeted us with a smile daily (which is normal there, because everyone wants you to get inside their stores). But somehow, he and his family gave us some confidence, and always helped us when we had any questions, without asking anything in return. In fact, they were the ones who warned us not to believe in anyone that told us that some place was closed.
So the last day, doing the last shopping, we couldn’t forget to visit his store. The salesman offered us some tea and prepared stools for us to sit on. He opened his “treasure chest,” where he really had museum pieces! He loved to tell us all of their stories. I bought him a pendant with the “Crux” or Southern Cross, which is well-known there and I already wanted it since the first day, when a young man talked to us about it. Maybe he was his son or another relative, but that last day he wasn’t there because he had left to the desert.
The Southern Cross is a kind of talisman of the Tuareg that attracts good luck and protection, and it’s also used as a guide through the desert (it represents the four cardinal points). As we seemed to understand, the tribe oriented somehow with this amulet: he made a demonstration by putting a cylinder through the hole, so maybe they used the shadow to guide themselves. There are 21 different crosses alluding to 21 cities, towns or tribes of the Niger, each one with a different design (although they’re all pretty similar). The one I took was the cross of Agadez, which cost 80 MAD. I also wanted to buy another necklace, more colorful and tribal, but they were all handmade and quite expensive. Anyway, he made me a good price and I end up paying around 220 dirhams for it (when most of them usually cost more than 400 MAD).
Although we had already made our purchases, he continued to tell us the story behind the treasures of his little cave… He loved to talk, and we wanted to know more about the culture, so it was perfect. The salesman didn’t even know how to speak Spanish fluently, and occasionally said a word in English, French or even using gestures to communicate, it was a mix! When we were leaving and said goodbye to him, the good man gave us a little hand of Fatima to each one, to use it as an earring or for putting on a chain. He was so kind! 🙂
The Argan is typical Moroccan, because its tree only grows there. It is the fuel of the Berber society and its oil is a condiment for many meals. It is also well-known for its cosmetic benefits: ideal as a body or hair moisturizer, it provides shine and softness. It is recommended for acne, to help healing and decrease stretch marks, to prevent aging, calm down irritations, etc.
We bought 8 little bottles of Argan oil (always thinking of the hand luggage in the airport, which could not exceed 100 ml). We payed 120 dirhams for them, that it really was the price of 6 bottles (they were 20 MAD each one). But the seller gave us 2 extra bottles as a present, and some perfume to put in the closet. This was because the first days we passed by his store and we always told him that we would buy some argan before we left. I guess he thought that were excuses, and he was pleasantly surprised to see us enter his store just the last day (when we returned from our desert tour).