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Morocco - Part 4

Okay, some practical stuff in case you want to travel here.

First things first. When you arrive at the airport the first thing you do is check taxi prices. Dont ask at the taxi rank. Ask someone in the Change, or any member of the airport staff. It is normal practise to be ripped off the moment you arrive anywhere. I never leave any airport building without some basic information. If you arrive at Agadir airport you will probably have some wait to get in. You will need to fill in one of those old fashioned forms. Itís best to fill them in before you get to the immigration officer. It can be quite a wait if you are at the back of the queue. I advise you to trot your way across the tarmac to get to the head of the queue.

The taxi fare into town should cost dh25. Thatís about £2. In fact the exchange rates for the end of 2016 were roughly dh10.50 to a euro, and about dh13 to £1. DH stands for dirham. Oddly, the rate is the same as it was the first time I came here back in the sixties.

In town, you might as well take a taxi whenever you want to get around as they are cheap. Ideally, get one of the little red ones. They are small, and not exactly the latest model, but they are quick and cheap. For a trip right across town expect to pay dh15, which is roughly Ä1.50, or £1.25. For a mid distance expect to pay dh10, and a short ride, say a mile or two, you can get away with as little as dh6.

We started off checking fares before getting in. Naturally, in the land of barter the price usually started at anything from dh40 to dh50. If you pay that you want your head examining. Weíve been here two weeks now, and we no longer bother to check prices. We just give the guy the correct fare. We recently just went from our hotel on the front to the marina. Itís about 2 kilometres. We gave the guy dh7.

An important point here. Before you get in, make sure you have the right change. Getting change could cause problems. If you give the right amount the driver knows you know. It cuts down unpleasantness. Dont travel with dh100 notes or bigger. Make sure you have change all the time.

I try to have some extra change as well to give to beggars. There are still some, and obviously I dont know how genuine they are, but I try to drop a dh1 coin or dh2 coin in an outstretched hand. Itís such a low value, and the muslim world does pay heed to the old fashioned rules of charity.

While we are on the subject of money, do remember that prices should not be anything like they are in Northern Europe. The average monthly wage in Morocco is said to be about Ä200. That's roughly Ä7 a day. People get by, so they cant be paying huge amounts of money for things. Wise up.

The next thing to do is visit a supermarket. There arenít many, but most people head first to the souk. Big mistake. This town is similar to Malta, which runs on small corner shops. There are a couple of supermarkets, the biggest and best being Marjane. A taxi from the tourist zone will cost you dh10 if youíre lucky, dh15 at the outside.

Now youíve arrived, do some research into prices. By all means buy what you need, but at least you now have a set of figures to judge whether you are being ripped off in the souks.

There are a couple of the old style markets. One within the city limits, and one a bit further out, which is much cheaper. Prices vary quite considerably. One of the big sellers is argan oil. The prices for this vary beyond belief. I am not a chemist or a health freak so I dont know much about these things, but be careful what you pay for. We made friends with people of arab descent who know what they are doing, and we were aware of prices varying from dh12 to dh200. Dont ask me to explain. You definitely need advice from several sources before you buy.

I found Iíd left my shorts behind at my daughterís. Another pair was essential as the weather here is bright and hot during the mornings and middle of the day. Julie did the bargaining. Prices started at dh120. We finally bought some for dh40. This is where it helps to have visited that supermarket first, so you know what the fixed prices are. It also helps not to buy things early on in your stay before you've become accustomed to how things work in this country.

Restaurants are generally cheap. I was really disappointed with the more classy type of restaurant. I assume that is because I remember how things used to be before Morocco became a modern tourist destination. I first ate in berber encampments when I was looking after goats. We ate from a large communal bowl, and we used our hands. In those days it was considered appallingly bad mannered to eat with your right hand. I note that piece of etiquette has changed, at least in the cities. If you are squeamish dont read the next paragraph.

The reason eating with the right hand was regarded as the height of disrespect is because back in the sixties your average home did not run to the luxury of lavatory paper. You either went in the fields, or used a different way altogether. You took a jam jar which you filled with water, and you literally washed your arse before leaving the loo. It was assumed everybody was right handed.

Modern restaurants give you separate small bowls of food. The cooking is much faster, so you dont get the old fashioned tastes. You also dont get the right quantity of couscous. And nobody eats the traditional way. I was taught to pick up a small amount and hold it in a cupped hand, and toss it lightly till it coalesced into a ball, which was then tossed into the mouth.

In the tourist tat shops you can buy pretty coloured cooking utensils for cooking the famous tagines. If you want to buy an ornament, they look fine for display, but are no use at all for cooking. For a start, the paint will come off into the dinner, and the vessels will crack. You need to buy proper cooking pots if you want to use them. Once again, do check what you are buying. The prettier they look the less use they are.

Tajine cooking pots

Just for a laugh, here is a picture of a restaurant in the big souk. These tagine pots are functional and can cope with the heat. On the other hand, do remember that this particular type of dish works best on a low slow heat.

Souk Restaurant

Also, be careful of buying pretty coloured rocks. They are usually soapstone that has been painted. Pretty they may be, but they are not genuine stones.

As I mentioned earlier, meals are generally good value and well cooked. We avoid the big eateries right on the front, but I think they are fine. A block back from our hotel, however, we discovered, by accident of course, a rather nice restaurant. The food is excellent and the prices are a joy. I had a potato omelette with a fine salad: dh20. A tagine is going to cost dh25 to dh40 depending on the type. A rich chicken soup is dh15. And you get a bowl full of bread, and the bread is good quality, together with a bowl of small black olives, and a piquant sauce thrown in. Tonight I may try their stroganoff. Not exactly a local dish, but weíll see what they make of it. The meat is usually turkey, together with a lot of lamb and chicken. No pork of course.


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