A VERY smooth scam
Back outside, we're wandering around aimlessly again. I remark that there seem to be rather a lot of people in wheelchairs around, when we turn a corner and find ourselves in a small square outside a mosque. A passer-by wags his finger to indicate we aren't allowed inside, which is fair enough - I doubt I'd have been allowed inside any mosque, and it doesn't bother me. The guide book says this mosque is a Lourdes-type equivalent - people come here to be cured. They attach a padlock to the gates, and if/when they're better, they remove the padlock.
The passer-by is quite a cheery fellow, and tells us about the tanneries - just round the corner, he says. Sounds interesting - might just wander by. He then cycles off - how pleasant! Someone not out to fleece us... After all, he didn't ask for any money. So we stroll off round the corner - it's all high walls, narrow streets, and there's our chum and his bike outside a doorway - Hi, he says again, this is my house - just keep walking and you'll get to the tanneries - up that way - he points ahead. Then again, he says, here's my friend who's going that way - he'll show you. First time in Morocco? We nod. His friend looks a decent chap, striding off at quite a rate, hardly caring if we follow him.
After ten or so minutes, round the corner seems to be a rather elastic distance, and we call out to the friend - Not far, not far, he assures us, as we trudge along unmetalled streets, getting, it must be said, rather bored with this. S wants to bail out, but each time he's about to duck down a side alley, so the new best friend turns and beckons us on. It seems rather churlish not to follow such an obliging guide. I warn S we'll have to give him something for his efforts.
And then suddenly, we're inside an open gateway - our passing friend of a friend just happens to have delivered us right into the tannery. We're greeted by the tannery guide - oh, yes, the penny's well and truly dropped by now - pressing much needed bunches of mint into our hands - the stench is truly appalling. Looking round for our guide, he's disappeared - and no money handed over - awww, he was doing it out of the goodness of his heart after all!
Anyway - now we're here - might as well do the tour - free tour, says the guy, as we lurch perilously around many deep concrete pits filled with noxious murky liquids. Pigeon poop, he says - pigeon poop is used in the tanning process - he points to a pigeon loft perched on a nearby roof. It's one of the melange of stinks.. And as usual, I'm wearing shoes appropriate to the event - yep, the little red leather flipflops .. through the nameless sludge surrounding the deathpits. Skins of goat, of camel are thrown into the pits, left to soak, and then some poor bugger jumps in up to his waist and wrings them out before they're dried, dyed and turned into - yes, flipflops ...
All too soon, the tour finishes, timed with the destruction of my bunch of mint, and we're ejected - what, still no money wanted? - on to the street beyond, where we meet - well, I never - but all our old new best friends again, and somehow we're wafted into a - carpet shop!! To the derisive grins of a couple of fellow tourist scammees busy examining the piles of woven carpets, we're ushered into a side room, where the floor is swiftly covered in layers of brightly coloured rugs. A very urbane gentleman in camel coloured polo necked pullover and tweed jacket (tweed jacket!!?) invites us to sit and have some mint tea - free, he assures us, whether we wish to buy anything or not - and offers his opening bid. It's sky high, and my eyes water ... S is equally urbane, polite but firm, and the quality of carpet descends from silk to 'vegetable' silk (?), to something faded, interwoven with grain husks and embroidered with little camels with red eyes. Oh, I LOVE it!! Out of the corner of my mouth, and of course completely unheard by my host, I mutter to S that I'd like to buy it. He asks about my top price, and it's agreed. We're all happy!!
We can only appreciate the whole operation, from the pick up of aimless tourists, the handovers, the lack of hands held out, and of course, the final sting ... still laughing, actually!
Oh, and the carpet looks great, draped over the back of one of my sofas ..