Years ago, Josh and I spent four months backpacking through West Africa. We ended up in Morocco, which we absolutely loved. After weeks of hard traveling, the food and drink (fresh juices! olives! yogurt! mint tea!), the markets (spices! rugs! more mint tea!), and the hostels (they existed!) were all a balm to our road-weary souls.
While most everyone we met was kind and welcoming, there was one person who turned out to be – to put it nicely – a con artist.
We were minding our own business somewhere (at the beach? at a park? I can’t remember, exactly), when a Marc, Moroccan guy who was about our age, approached us and struck up a conversation. As backpackers, we were used to that, so we all talked for awhile: about us, about him, about life in general. After awhile, he invited us to come to his house for dinner. His wife made the most delicious pastilla, he told us. We were a little apprehensive about accepting his offer, but he seemed nice enough, and we were young and kinda dumb, so we said yes.
At that point, we actually had a weird conversation about what the invitation meant. He assured us that he really just wanted us to be able to try pastilla. Since we were from the United States, he told us, we would probably never get another chance to try the real thing. Reassured, we agreed to meet him the following day for dinner.
We met the next day as planned, and the three of us took a taxi to Marc’s house. He invited us inside, where we met his wife. We started to relax and feel more comfortable at this point. We talked and laughed for awhile, then we started the meal. It was simple but delicious. They had made the pastilla together, they told us, starting at 9 am that morning, using ninety-nine spices.
We were really grateful for their warm welcome and generosity, so we gave them one of our most prized possessions on the trip – a frisbee. They were thrilled. We also offered to take a few photos of them, as they didn’t own a camera, and we promised to send them copies once we returned to the States.
At this point, Marc pulled out a piece of paper. We thought he was planning on writing down his address so that we could send him the photos, but instead, the pieces of paper was actually a receipt! He explained that he had to charge us for the cost of the ingredients, as they were very expensive and they had spent most of the money they had to purchase them. He charged us 200 dirhams, which at the time was a huge amount for us (at least 3 nights in the hostel we were staying in, or 20 meals, or a few bus rides).
We were shocked, but even more than that, we were bummed. We thought we were all culturally connecting and spreading harmony across countries, when in reality we were being scammed.
So while the pigeon pie was indeed delicious, it totally left a bad taste in our mouths.
Have you ever been scammed while traveling? What happened?