Monday, December 14, 2009

Disrespectful tourists and the Waterman

Jeff and I sat at our favourite cheap eat in the Jmaa El Fna (main square in the medina), watching the tourists and locals walk and ride by. I love to sit there and people watch from the table with the unobstructed street view of the square, but which also says ‘don’t approach me’. I love to watch the veiled women hold their photo albums of hennaed hands to the western women as they walk by, to see the well dressed young men unsuccessfully selling balloons, wooden snakes, watches, glasses and recycled cola bottles filled with Argan oil.
On one particular day a colourful Berber Waterman caught my eye. He was being swallowed by his outfit of mammoth red and green hat and faded red tunic. His weathered skin and dark moustache made him look very grandfatherly. He was trying to talk to the tourists who walked by, camera in hands. No one wanted any water. No one wanted a chat. So I was feeling sorry for the Waterman, thinking I would soon go over for a glass of water. Then two blonde women approached him, lifted their cameras, and took a portrait shot. He held out his hand for some obligatory coins and the women rudely shook their heads, ignored him and walked away. Not a smile, no permission asked for the photo, no courtesy.

So I went and asked the Waterman for a photograph. He smiled politely showing his browned and missing teeth. He lifted his tongue and made that high pitched ‘lalalalala’ noise and Jeff snapped away. He was also very grateful for the coins that landed in his hand.


  1. Thanks for doing that. I often buy stuff I don't need in order to give someone a little dose of dignity and pride.

  2. i was on the upper porch of a restaurant at the Djemma El Fna witnessing the largest stage play. here i would like to say that all the moroccan musicians, snake charmers, henna-ladies, monkey keepers and the friendly water sellers are making a decent living. those tourists who refused to pay these 'artists' for photography must be ashamed of their action. do not think you gain.. you are just cheating. please give them something appropriate.

    from the aerial view, we saw one Asian lady who kept taking the video of the musicians from her phone. a member of the band politely asking her for a fee that she refused but kept busy with her shooting and even aiming the phone directly at the musician's face whilst he was begging her for some coins. she ignored, he walked away. a few seconds afterwards, a man on a motorbike sped besides her and snatched her phone camera with him. she chased after the bike but failed the speed.

    we saw everything... we felt sorry for her and hope she learnt a lesson. we do not know what kind of story she would tell about the incident but we saw everything. she was not honest in the first place.

  3. Thanks for sharing! I know, it really is amazing how many people think that the performers and locals are there for free. Everyone needs to make money, and in Morocco a little goes a long way.

    Sad about the lady and the phone. She sounded rude in the first place, so unfortunately she probably won't have learnt her lesson. Let's just hope it was karma.