I had one friend in Morocco who absolutely refused to do “touristy” things like ride camels and visit famous restaurants. She wanted the most “authentic” experience she could get. One weekend I got her to drive out to the Sahara with me. When we got to the town we were accosted by all the tour companies that wanted us to stay in their desert camp and go for a sunrise camel ride. After negotiating (in perfect English) with a nice young Moroccan man who had spent the last few years in Scandinavia at school we agreed to spend the night in the desert. He left for a few minutes and when he came back he had changed out of his jeans and leather jacket, into the stereotypical blue djellaba and head scarf. Then we used his Jeep to drive out into the desert to the camp site. We spent the rest of the evening listening to traditional music, dancing, and eating tajine cooked over a fire. In the morning we woke up for a sunrise breakfast and camel ride. Although at the time this felt like the most staged, “touristy,” and contradictory experience we could have found for ourselves, I have begun to realize that “touristy” or not, those experiences are a reality for many Moroccans. In a country where tourism is one of the largest industries, many Moroccans spend their time serving and even “acting” for tourists. Whether that is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years or only tens, it is the current reality and in some ways one the most “authentic” experiences we could have had.
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