I flew myself to Morocco few weeks ago, fantasizing about the dusty tangerine sun over the terracotta buildings and the harsh shadows that I thought are much needed for the photos but later realised for me instead. On one way or another, I was not wrong about this postcard-perfect scene, just that pulling the trigger on my camera is the least favourite thing of Moroccan.
And this North African country is so much more than that.
Everyday the interwoven alleyways challenge our sense of direction by looking exactly the same from one another and totally different from day to night ; local guides are so linguistically gifted that each of them speak at least 5 languages just by daily practise with us the tourists ; the intricate mosaic decoration of the mosques and gates continuously feed our artistic / architectural appetite ; at every household the proudly-presented Moroccan whiskey* is offered with no expectation of refusal (which may or may not cost you money afterwards – we’ll discuss about it later) ; and to my utmost surprise, internet reception in the desert is not a whimsical joke or unrealistic luxury but a casual part of daily life to the people living in the villages (cue my jaw-dropping face and Berber’s why-so-surprised face).
During one of the late lunches / early dinners (you lose track of meal time due to the unbearable heat), our experiences in the previous days unavoidably leaded us to this topic of discussion: Who can we lay our trust on here? Of course, there are so many advices and warnings people could have about far-flung countries where they have never been – pickpocketing, wolfish strangers, male gaze, deadly diseases et cetera. ‘You just have to be more careful’, one girl said. True, traveling in Morocco needs the right sort of attitude. While almost all random chatters and direction offerings and tourist enquiries (shopping, photographing, transportation, so on) carry a hidden monetary agenda (usually A LOT more than it should be), and one will only learn his or her lesson with some dirham lost at some stage of the trip, you will find the newly picked-up skill of bargaining the non-photographic proof of your brief encounter in this beautiful corner of the world. As soon as you weather the agonizing fact that the money flooded in from tourism has changed their country and lifestyle for generations, the question is no longer relevant.
It’s not who, but How.
*Moroccan mint tea (0% alcoholic content**)
**It’s a Muslim country, com’on.
Photography and Text: Hong Hiu Ching
Ps. Please let me know if you want to know my travel details