Letter Writing in Essaouira

We were wandering down the streets of Essaouira in the relatively early morning. The sun was trying to break through the morning fog and haze and there was a damp breeze blowing down the ancient alleyways. We were wrapped up in our sweaters and scarves – quite a welcome change from Marrakech- and were just out for a nice morning stroll after walking along the ramparts.

We came to a shop where the man who runs it was outside. His face quickly brightened as he saw us approach, something we have gotten used to as the merchants see a tourist and instantly think we will buy something. The customary salutations were exchanged “Bonjour” “Bonjour” and we tried to break his gaze and head around him. He quickly turned his focus on me and asked if I was English. “No”, I replied “Canadian”. His face lit up and he said “Could you write a letter for me please? In English? Come Come.”, as he beckoned me inside his shop of jewelry and other trinkets.

I cautiously followed him to the back of the shop, while Zac watched from the doorway and entered to ensure I was ok. The shop was a small and intimate place. It was decorated as most Moroccan places are – lots of deep red and orange colors, textiles, and cushions on the floor. I vaguely recall necklaces and other jewelry hanging on the wall, but to be honest, my brain was so pre-occupied with trying to keep safe that I hardly noticed my surroundings. The shop owner introduced himself, unfortunately I cannot remember his name either, and handed me a grid paper lined notebook and pen. I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop and some sort of scam to occur when he started dictating what he wanted me to write.

He was writing to someone called Peter and thanking him for the gift of medicine and photos that he sent. He wanted Peter to know he appreciated them very much and that Peter is invited to his sister’s wedding on December 25th. There was much thanks and well wishes for Peter and his family and sincere hopes they will see each other soon.

As I wrote the letter, I was filled with mixed emotions. Here I was thinking that I was somehow going to be scammed or in danger in some way. I never, in fact, reply to people asking for anything from me on the streets. I was surprised that I followed this man into the shop. I wrote the words being spoken all the while my brain tried to figure out what this scam could actually be. I couldn’t figure it. When I was through with the letter, I handed the notebook back to the gentleman and he seemed rather pleased with my penmanship and terribly appreciative of my service. He offered to brew Zac and I some saffron tea, which I turned down and said we needed to continue on.

He continued to thank me for my service and was genuinely surprised I wanted nothing in return for the few minutes I spent writing this letter. I feel guilty for my feelings of mistrust, but even as I write this I am dubious. I am going to try to solidify this story and memory in my brain as a very nice tale of me helping someone with a need and no scams being performed. There’s a part of me that wants to walk by the shop again in the next few days and see if he does the routine all over again.

P.S. – Immediately after writing this, it occurred to me that his scam could be that someone in a room next door was trying to capture my credit cards via RFid. I don’t have a fancy card blocking wallet, though Zac does, and am hoping I am wrong. I woke in the middle of the night thinking about this and realized our wifi isn’t working so I cannot check our accounts to ensure there are no fraudulent charges. So, here I sit and stew and wonder if I am a crazy paranoid person or if I am right to be so mistrustful.

P.P.S - So a few weeks on and still no fraudulent activity against any of our cards. So, either he is the most latent of credit card scammers or there was another scam being done or no scam at all. I continue to ponder about this interaction and have been thinking of it almost every single day. There have been so many lessons that I have been shown while being in Morocco, but I think this just might be the biggest one. I continue to feel like such an asshole for even worrying about his motives but then again....