I approach the crowd of grand taxis parked outside the bus station, and say to the man with the small notebook and pencil- in Darija, exactly the way I’ve heard Moroccans say it- “Tangier, one seat,” pronouncing Tangier the Arabic way. The man points toward a grand taxi. I hand him thirty dirhams. He asks me something in Darija, something I don’t understand. I look at him quizzically.
He switches to French. “Oh, I am so sorry. I didn’t know you were French. I thought you were Moroccan.”
I’m not French, but I don’t bother telling him I’m not. You find a language in which you can both communicate adequately and you go with it. That’s how it works here.
I’m not often mistaken for a Moroccan woman. I assume it was knowing the grand taxi system that made him think I was. People generally assume I’m Spanish or French.
I’m buying vegetables in the souk. “Are you Spanish?” asks the man selling me half a kilo of tomatoes.
“No, I’m American.”
“Buongiorno!” shouts a random man on the street. Well, that’s a new one. The funny thing is, he’s closer than anyone else.
Two friends and I hail a taxi in the touristy marina district of Agadir. We tell him our destination through the front passenger window. “Fifty dirhams,” he says, in French.
“No,” we say, in Darija. “The meter, please.”
“No,” he says. “Fifty dirhams.”
“It’s not far from here. It’s close. Fifty dirhams is very expensive. We’re not tourists. We know.”
He has also switched to Darija. “It’s night. The rate is double at night.”
“Double? No. Not double. More expensive, but not double. Twenty dirhams.”
“Okay, okay. Thirty dirhams.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll use the meter and you’ll see it’s not less than thirty dirhams.”
We get in the car. He turns on the meter.
We chat on the ride home, telling him we live in Morocco, we’re teachers, we’re visiting a friend, asking him what he thinks of Agadir. His tone has completely changed. We’re chatting like old friends. He gives us his number in case we ever need a taxi and can’t find one.
When we reach our destination, the meter reads twenty-nine dirhams. I point to the meter. “Look. Does it say fifty? Does it?” I can’t resist.
He laughs. “I thought you were tourists.”
“Yeah, we know.”