You Live and Learn.
Giray and I had a pretty wild experience in Marrakech that I thought would be good to share with everyone. When writing about the places i've traveled to, I tend to focus on all of the good things we experience and wonderful memories we create but this time we were so impacted by what we went through that I had to write about it. I'll start with this photo (below) because this is where and how it all started.
Giray and I had started our day exploring the medina, which is a huge complex maze (for us outsiders anyway) filled with hundreds of thousands of shops selling anything from spices to shoes. We were in search of the famous Marrakech Tannery with a tourist map we were given at our Riad. BIG mistake! HELLO TOURISTS! Anyway, as we were walking through this maze, the man in the photo above approaches us and says "You're going the wrong way, the museum is closed." Giray and I both looked at him and said "Oh we're going to the tannery" (another BIG mistake). He then offered kindly to show us where it was. We (at that moment) were elated to have met someone that was kind enough to guide us through this labyrinth.
As we approached the tannery he told us we'd be in good hands as his friend was the man in charge of the tannery. The minute we went into the tannery we knew something wasn't right. It didn't look at all like the photos we had seen online and the smell was probably the worst smell in the world. There were cow tails thrown on the ground and there were people "curing" the leather in these huge holes filled with chemicals all while they were wearing nothing but regular pants/shorts. It was shocking to see the conditions these men were working in. The worst part about this was that the man in charge of the tannery was exclaiming "take photos! take photos!" as if this was something spectacular.
We just stood there for a few minutes, completely dumbfounded of the place we found ourselves and wondered where all those beautiful puddles of different color dyes were. This, however, was the real deal, what people don't want you to see, unless you're the man that took us here.
The smell was completely unbearable, I started running towards the exit to catch some fresh air when the man in charge yelled "Hello! where are you going? Come back!" I yelled back I couldn't stand the smell and that I was leaving. He caught up to me and grabbed my arm and said "wait here." He instructed some men (in Arabic) to bring fresh mint. Giray and I were both given small bunches of mint to help with the smell so we could complete our "tour".
As we were walking towards the exit, we spotted our guy, the man that brought us here. He asked how we liked it and offered to take us to a store where they sold leather goods made from the leather at the tannery. Giray and I just wanted to get out of there but he was being so persistent that we gave in and went. After walking around the leather shop and declining "good deals" we left. As we were walking back towards the main plaza the man that brought us here offered to take us back. We kindly declined and said that it wasn't necessary and kept walking.
This is where things took a turn for the ugly. This man insisted he take us back and we insisted he didn't. He got upset and asked for money. We told we didn't have any cash, which made him even more upset. He began to scream and called for his "friend", the man in charge of the tannery aka The Guardian. He came out to see what the problem was and "our guy" kept screaming something in Arabic. Giray and I decided to ignore them and keep walking. Then 2 men showed up.
One stood on each side of Giray and grabbed him saying, "come on my friend, pay, this is The Guardian." We were in the middle of the medina, far from any other tourists, had our spending money for the day, camera, laptop and iphones. We were terrified that we were going to get jumped if we didn't pay but Giray somehow managed to walk away from them and our guy wasn't having it. He grabbed Giray by the arm and demanded money, 200 Dirhams per person.
We weren't going to get away with "Sorry, we don't have any cash or change", so we gave him all the money we had and walked away unharmed. This has to be the worst experience i've ever had traveling. Never have I encountered such cruel people but I guess this is what part of traveling to new countries is, ya never know what you're gonna get.
Sorry for the long post but I had to share this for ONE main reason; So that hopefully someone out there reads this and is more cautious than we were, when traveling to Marrakech or really anywhere. You cannot be too trusting with anyone when traveling because you just never know.
Okay. Goodnight! Safe and happy travels!