We’re going to Asilah – further along the coast, where (so Bernd tells us) the rich Moroccans from further south come for their summer holidays for sun, sand, and water. The old town was originally built by the Portuguese, and the lone tower at the town square really looks like a good ol’ torre.
As we get out of the taxi, we find out how not to deal with Moroccans. Bern, having dark blond hair and a beard, and looking like our dad, is the obvious target for all people wanting to be our guides. He knows this already, and when he’s tired, he lets his guard down and today, when the first Moroccan says, “Hello mister, where are you from?” Bernd answers harshly, “No, we don’t need anything.” Taken aback, the Moroccan gets mad and starts insulting us as racists and tells us to go home again and that they didn’t want any foreigners here anyway, etc. Another Moroccan calms him, and a third comes over and tells us not to take him seriously and that he was sorry for him. After some mumbling we leave.
The point is that talking to these people is like an elegant dance or elaborate fencing with many rules. You try to avoid to buy something, and they try to sell something. The problem is that you have to be polite at all times – no direct denying of things, but being smart (or as we would say, lying) is allowed – Claudia tells me the same thing about Tunesia. They call it being malin, ie. being smart about things. It is a small battle of the wits. Hilarious.
The houses are all white, the alleyes narrow, the sky is blue, and the weather is hot. We walk across town, and notice that many houses have plants growing in pots before their doors – Bernd claims the Portuguese do this as well. I can’t remember whether they do or don’t.
Joel wants to buy antique knives, and one of the vendors went check his stocks. He comes back at five or six, and we wander through Asilah some more. We’re confused by the timezones. Portugal, Spain, and Morocco are all in different timezones. Some of us keep their watches in Portuguese time, others keep changing. We have to wait for the shop owner one hour longer than expected because of the timezone confusion.
While waiting, we sit in a café and mobile sweet vendors pass us from time to time. One of them stops at our table, showing us their pastry and telling us how good it is. A battle of wits! I grin, and agree with him that they do look tasty, but that we are not hungry right now. He says that they are very good, made of almonds and honey and pine nuts. I reply that we just ate, so there it really makes no sense to buy some sweets now, but maybe later, when we are hungry again. He grins, and we exchange some Inshallah and he goes.
Later the sweet vendor comes again, and asks me to change Euros to Moroccan Dirhams for him. Obviously people paid him with Euro coins, and he can’t change it back. Bern and Claudia are sceptical, but I agree and pull out my portemonnaie (wallet). €1 is about 10 Dirham, and so I put down a bill or two on the table and take the approriate amount of coins to my side of the table. He looks at it, mumbles to himself, counts the coins, mumbles some more, counts again, but finally agrees. It reminds me that analphabetism is as high as 60%, if I remember correctly.
The day passes, we see Moroccans bathing below the city walls, we even see some jumping from the ancient city walls down into the water, Joel buys an old Spanish bayonet, and we take the taxi back home. This time the taxi is full. They have small taxis aka. petit taxi and big ones. The big ones can take you to other cities. They are all old white Mercedes-Benz cars. And they officially carry six passengers, excluding the driver. Yihaa! A Moroccan couple in the front, and the four of us in the back.