Everyday, an estimated 400,000 pick pocketing incidents occur around the world. In any given city, this means there are thousands of pickpockets, and my father was convinced that every single one had him squarely in their sights. In the months leading up to our trip to Morocco, he questioned everyone we knew who had recently returned from a trip overseas about their assessments regarding pick pockets and scammers. Did they get pickpocketed? Were they scammed? What about anyone they knew? Well, did they ever think they might have? He read and reread the Lonely Planet chapter on Crime & Safety. His paranoia grew and grew. Before embarking on our trip he assembled what he believed to be a state-of-the-art anti-pickpocketing device. It consisted of a pouch secured with a chain to a belt loop on his shorts. This, he was sure, would outwit the canny army of pickpockets he would encounter. He wore this device everywhere, in preparation for the inevitable assault by the wallet lifting enemy.
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We did encounter one quasi-extortionist, but it was at the one time my father wasn’t expecting it. After arriving sleep-deprived and disoriented in Marrakech, we began exploring. The city, like many in Morocco, is divided between the old city (medina) and the new city. The former, as the name suggests, constituted the original city before the advent of cars and wide boulevards. It is composed of a labyrinth of alleyways, none of them continuing in the same direction for more than a few hundred feet and there are no street signs. On our first walk, we got lost trying to return to our Riad, a type of traditional Moroccan apartment. We wandered around for hours, stepping around donkeys and carts of steaming vats of snails. Just when we thought we would see our Riad, or at least a familiar landmark, we would end up in a dead-end alley way covered with Arabic graffiti.
As our confusion was becoming more acute, a young girl came up to us. She was probably no older than eight years, and spoke broken English. She asked if we were lost, and when we answered in the affirmative, she said she knew where our Riad was, and could lead us there. Gratefully, in submissive obedience, we followed her. She led us for about 30 minutes, and then told us our Riad was right around the corner. She looked at my parents expectantly, and my father extracted a few Dirhams (safely ensconced in his special wallet), which he handed to her. She took it, nodded and held out her hand for more. My father handed her more Dirhams, which she took with impatience. My Dad, who saw scammers hiding everyone, had met his match. He kept giving her money, until she nodded, and departed. We walked to where our Riad was supposed to be, but of course, it was not there. Another hour passed before we found our destination, and that was the last time my father asked for directions in Morocco.
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