Marrakesh is a one-of-a-kind and ancient Moroccan city that I love. But in recent years, it has grown a problem of overly aggressive tourist exploitation.
This comes in the form of "guides," shop-keepers and street vendors who mercilessly badger and harass you into paying for their services. It also comes in the form of phony food operations. For example, Berber tagine cooking is one of the world's greatest culinary innovations. The magic is in not only ingredients and seasoning, but also in the cooking of meat and vegetables together inside an earthen "oven" of exactly the right shape over an open fire. But many restaurants in Marrakesh simply cook stuff and throw it into a tagine at the last minute, figuring that tourists don't know the difference.
This guy is yet another example. Because the Marrakesh medina can't handle cars and trucks, porters work the peripheries with carts. For a little over $2, they'll roll your luggage in a wheeled cart from the edge of the medina to your hotel.
The standard rate is 15 dirhams, or 20 dirhams at the highest price (20 dirhams is around $2.05.) It's a good deal for visitors. And it's a good living for the porters, who can earn over $20 per hour in a country where the minimum wage is $1.50 an hour.
All the porters routinely charge 15 to 20 dirhams for their service and have done for years.
Still, Amira and I like to carry our own bags, and tend not to use such porters. But our driver figured that it would be easier for us to follow a porter, who knew where our riad was, than to convey directions through the maze-like medina. Our driver asked the porter "how much?," and he responded "twenty."
So we got to the riad, and handed him 20 dirhams, and he said, "what's this?" We said it was his 20 dirhams. And he said, "dirhams? no dollars!" He was pretending there was a mixup and that he told us his fee was $20 US dollars for five minutes of unskilled labor.
You'll note that $20 is more than we've paid for a night in a beautiful riad. It's a lot of money in Morocco.
So the porter got aggressive and hostile, which I assume would inspire many visitors to just pay him $20 to go away. But we've been around the block a few times and aren't easily intimidated by street husltlers. So Amira pushed $40 dirhams into his hands. I told him his con earned him double the agreed-upon fee and that he would have to be satisfied with that. Then I took his picture and shut the door in his face.
Welcome to Marrakesh.