Taken for a Ride

Taxis are everywhere in urban Morocco. As a student and a traveler, they are the preferred method of transportation – they are easy, ubiquitous, and timesaving. In the packed streets of Casablanca, Fes, or Marrakech, the taxi is the most prevalent vehicle next to the moped. Taxis will appear everywhere you look, and they cram into high profit areas, like the train stations or the port. Taxi drivers are no strangers to the haggling in the Moroccan market culture. Bargaining is a critical and expected element of selling and buying in Morocco. From taxis to tagines (traditional ceramic ovens), no price is fixed.

Taxi drivers are selling their wares, but their market is the street. Instead of a crowded medina, or ancient city, all their bargaining happens in parking lots and on corners. They are just as aggressive, if not more so, than the vendors in the medinas. As soon as we tourists stepped off the train in Casablanca, the taxi drivers forced themselves into our faces and called to us in every European language. They made a formidable wall of eager humanity, each angling for an “in” for their particular network of taxi drivers, riad (hostel) owners, street vendors, and tour guides. The drivers will persist until you are sitting in the back of a competitor’s taxi, maintaining that if the competitor’s price is unsatisfactory, the traveler is fair prey.

Taking a taxi or bargaining in the market in Morocco is a game of estimation. First: the size-up. The tourist apprehensively approaches the vendor, while the competitors circle, licking their chops. Both traveler and vendor gauge the threat. Then the dance begins.  The asking price starts high, the counter offer low. Finally: the concession. Either the traveler folds or the vendor, the taxi driver, wins. I folded many times in Morocco, but how was I to know if I had won or not? I walked away satisfied with my bargaining – until I needed another taxi.

—Veronica Bacher

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