Behind the Scenes of Scam City Marrakech
Nothing is as it seems in Marrakech, writes Scam City’s associate producer, Martin Paquette, in this behind-the-scenes account of carpets and card tricks in Morocco.
This is a GUEST POST by Scam City camera crew member MARTIN PAQUETTE.
Today is an important day; we meet with a source in Marrakech who knows all the details about the business of selling carpets to tourists—what is real and what is not.
From the chat with this man, we can state that nothing is what it seems in Morocco’s old capital. Shop owners hire people to age rugs and vases, and that’s how the process of scamming starts. The texturing-workers are getting scammed on their salaries by shop owners, and the shop owners scam tourists by telling them made-up stories about the history of their products in order to jack up the prices.
Later on in the day, we are ready for some action and we prepare our equipment to film undercover. The plan is to allow Conor to get picked up by a false tour guide on the street, who brings him to the Tannery (public market) to buy a fake carpet. Van, our director of photography, and Conor (both wearing hidden cameras) go into the shop, where they get a carpet that is supposedly 50 years old and made by the Touareg people. It costs US$300. Carl, our soundman, is just outside the shop recording the scene, along with Joe, the director, who also has a camera, hoping to catch the false guide getting his kickback after the sale. It all goes like we planned, so at the end of the scene we are all very satisfied.
The texturing-workers are getting scammed on their salaries by shop owners, and the shop owners scam tourists by telling them made-up stories about the history of their products in order to jack up the prices.
Later on, when we head back to the main square, Conor is pursued by a group of Gnawa dancers, one of the most aggressive groups of people in Marrakech. They make a couple of dance moves and promptly start asking for money. The dancers are convinced they can get lots of money from our host, so they are relentless in their pursuit, while Conor tries everything to get rid of them: the irresistible force meets the immovable object. Conor eventually escapes, but it was indeed a funny moment.
Then Conor decides to return the carpet he bought earlier, having discovered it is neither old nor made by the Touareg people. On our way to confront the carpet seller, we run into a group of guys playing the three-card monte trick. They try to show us the trick live. However, it seems that this square is not their territory, so other sellers move in menacingly. Tension mounts between the two groups—and we are caught in the middle. Luckily, we have Khalid on our team, a local fixer who happens to know an undercover policeman working in the square. Khalid involves the police very discreetly by handing him a backshish (bribe). The chief of police conveniently turns up just at this moment, and very kindly offers his services. Calm returns.
Was this also a scam? You never know in Marrakech!
By Martin Paquette, Associate Producer, Scam City
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