Rabat – Two restaurants in Marrakech’s Jemaa El Fna Square, both managed by the same person, have lost their license to operate after reportedly charging a group of foreign tourists MAD 5000 for dinner.
The incident happened in early June, and the tourists filmed the debacle to show to authorities. Upon receiving the shockingly high bill, the infuriated tourists demanded to be shown the price for each individual dish.
The manager, unaware he was being filmed, began to bargain with the tourists. They eventually settled on the tourists paying MAD 3000, all the money they had on them.
According to daily paper Al Akhbar, the Wali of Marrakech launched an inquiry upon hearing about the incident. The commission responsible for the inquiry found that the actions of the restaurant manager “harm the image and the tourist reputation of the city.”
Authorities have sanctioned 5 other restaurants for overcharging and issued 70 warnings to street vendors.
Wali launches crackdown on overcharging
The sanctions and license removals are part of an initiative by the Wali of Marrakech to crackdown on overcharging in the famous square.
As well as overcharging restaurant owners, tourists have complained of pushy snake charmers, henna tattooists, taxi drivers, and vendors which taint their experience of Marrakech.
Most recently, on July 3, Marrakech police arrested a snake charmer from Jemaa El Fna Square for fraud and breach and trust after he charged a tourist €40 for a single photo.
Tourists also regularly complain about taxi drivers. Some refuse to run the meter, instead, making up prices on the spot depending on how much they think the passenger will be willing to pay. This year, 39 taxis have already been sanctioned.
Jemaa El Fna’s reputation eroded by long-running complaints of scammers
The effect scammers and overcharging have on the historic site becomes abundantly clear on tourists forums, such as Tripadvisor. Reports of henna artists grabbing the hand of tourists when they are off-guard are common. The tattoo artists then attempt to charge tourists as much as €150 euros for the tattoo they did not consent to.
Snake charmers reportedly do the same, draping their snakes over the necks of unwitting tourists and then asking for exorbitant amounts, similar to the incident mentioned above.
“Do not make eye contact with any performers in the square! They are mental!” one Tripadvisor user said. “During our first hour in Marrakech, my husband stopped to look at the snakes, one ended up around my neck. Then they hassled us for a tip, even though they forced the snake around my neck.”
“We had no dirhams on us as we only just arrived. They insisted we had to tip them for good luck, and wouldn’t leave us alone. I gave them £1 and still, he was not satisfied said he wanted paper English money,” the traveler complained.
“I am not impressed with the tipping/begging culture going on. We are not made of money just because we are from the UK.”
It’s important to note that many of the forums are also full of tourists noting the hospitality and kindness Moroccans are known for, adding that the scammers of Jemaa el Fna were the only exception.