A golden bracing encounter
One should never be too hasty about deleting photos of people one has met casually. Such was the case of a tourist hustler called Mohammed X in Tangier. After all why should I keep a photo of a frisky persistent tout who had latched on to myself and my best friend Pauline when I invited her to Tangier for her birthday last June?
We could not get rid of this young bumble bee ‘student’ and so eventually allowed him to show us around the hilly Casbah, the old Tangier fortress, avoiding the zillions of overflowing shops in the souk, shunning all the shops he wanted to show us, tempting us with the magical words ‘Berber jewellery’. Finally he manipulated and lured us to a tourist trap for multiple large day tripper groups from Tarifa, a sumptuously decorated furnished restaurant for lunch. It was there I took his photo despite his broad smile with a noticeable ‘gold finger’ metal brace on all his upper pallet, a sight to behold!
I was invited back the next day for a complimentary late lunch by the owners when they discovered I had written more than 1,000 reviews on TripAdvisor. They wanted a glowing review, bien sur. My review was not glowing, more about the decor and live traditional music played by older underpaid local musicians, taking care not to mention the constant complaints about having been overcharged by the irate day trippers.
In Mohammed came with new ‘victims’, an American couple. It was only then I realised we had been ‘pulled in’ as typical punters and he of course was not a ‘student’ but an experienced young hustler. Of course we had given him some dirhams for his ‘studies’ not realising at the time we had also been duped!
It was only on my next trip in low season January 2020 that I had the misfortune to run into him late one night, around 22h, walking back alone on the Petit Socco to my Dar in the medina.
Mohammed greeted me like a long lost intimate friend, even remembering I reviewed places for TripAdvisor, where I had stayed and when! Had he kept a little black book on all his ‘victims’ I wondered?
When he invited me for a late night mint tea, I refused. What had I in common with a 28 year old hustler? Nada! However, ‘La’ did not exist in his vocabulary. He was so manipulative and persistent, that I gave in thinking he was going to take me to a local cheap cafe and I would be conned into paying 15 MAD for a Berber tea I did not want! But no, Mohammed lured me into the upmarket beautifully appointed Palais Zahia, the very place I wanted to stay and attempt to negotiate the price for the sumptuous Sultana suite. After all I AM Sultana JILLIANA! Yet again I asked if he was inviting me. Yes, he confirmed, visualising his evening’s ‘investment’.
The evening receptionist Anass glanced up from his desk as Mohammed ushered me into the lift to go to the roof terrace. I felt irritated I had been recognised and seen with a potential ‘toy boy’.
Mohammed knew the terrace would be dark and deserted, I did not! On arrival, he tried to persuade me to climb even higher to the top terrace. No way Jose! Alone on a top terrace in the dark with a frisky Moroccan tout was not my idea of fun!
I sat down on a 3 seater rattan sofa waiting desperately for a waiter to take the order. Mohammed sat close up to me flashing his golden Draconian smile in the dark of the terrace as the candles had not yet been lit by the waiter cum genii.
Finally the genii appeared to take the order, light a candle and vanish in a puff of smoke.
Then Mohammed started his tourist ‘technique’ by first daring to put his hand on my right leg below my thigh. After I brushed him off as one would a fly, his hand landed on my right upper arm. Was this magical move meant to arouse me? Was it Moroccan strategic foreplay? Where was Allah or the genii to protect me? Worse, he next put his head on my shoulder asking, while gazing into my eyes, if I liked him. Are you kidding? ‘La’, meaning no was my immediate answer as I pushed him away. I assured him I was not a ‘Sugar Mummy’ and was amazed when he suggested I write him a good TripAdvisor comment on one of the tour operator’s site as he claimed to be their guide and maybe get a room at the Palais Zahia for us!
Us? How could he be so dumb? Bed with a tout for a glass of tea! Did he thinking I was going to fly with him on a magical carpet to the Sultan suite? I immediately got up to leave. Mohammed, seeing his 35 MAD tea time ‘investment’ yielded no growth, crestfallen went to the kitchen to pay the genii and dolefully put me in the lift.
I had spent a distasteful 30-40 minutes up on the roof terrace and it was only when I related my story to my soul sister Pauline the next night, that she said I should have reported his harassment not only to the hotel for allowing him on the premises but also to the tourist police.
It is one thing to be hassled to go for lunch or buy the inevitable rug or piece of Berber or Tuareg jewellery but it is serious when a predator makes an insinuated proposal to a woman who could be his grandmother!
Should he ever succeed in finding his ‘Sugar Mummy’ I hope she removes his gold braces and gets his teeth fixed! Allah!!
Written on 28/1/20 at Chhiwat L’couple restaurant, Tangier, Morocco.
La means No in Arabic