March 2, 2001
If nothing else, our guide WAS quite informative. He took us through the marketplace, showed us the vista that had most inspired Matisse when he lived in Tanger, and took us for tea in a carpet shop that sold beautiful tapestries and rugs. Although the hustle to purchase never ended (shopkeepers, kiosk owners, random people on the street), we avoided dropping large sums of money for anything. At one point, a man rushed out of his shop and offered Keith ten camels for me. We laughed, and our irritating guide got quite angry with us for laughing at their "cultural ways." Who were we to know that camels are a valuable currency for white women?
Before leaving Spain, where we were staying for a week or so, I had asked my troublemaking boyfriend what kind of clothes were appropriate for an African country. I had heard that Morocco was a culture that frowned upon the women showing skin, but trusted Keith, who had been there five or six times, when he told me that the dress code had relaxed, and my tiny summer dresses would do just fine.
Ha! We had barely left the hotel when I knew this to be untrue. Men stared with ogling eyes and mouths agape; women stared in open hatred. We stayed on busy streets, and were not unsafe. And it was true that the dress code had "relaxed" to the point where the teenagers did not wear veils, and could show a bit of arm or leg, but no one was as bare as I was, with my sleeveless mini-sundress. If I return to Morocco, I will dress differently, if only to demonstrate respect for a culture in which I am a visitor.
From journal Rocking the Casbah