Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

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Gendarmes in Morocco don’t react well to sarcasm …

Posted by Rishiray on March 4, 2010

So another thing you learn in a Muslim country is that the appearance of doing something is as important as actually doing something. Hence one of the customs I knew about in Muslim countries is that taking pictures of the mosques and military establishments are prohibited. One has to ask permission to take pictures first before doing so.

However if you’re driving in a van, just normally taking pictures and the police/gendarme happen to see your camera, they automatically assume that you’re taking a picture of them. This is a real bitch of a problem for a couple reasons:

  • They will stop the bus, and pull the bus driver out and tear him a new one
  • They will rattle off French/Arabic and broken Eng-rish at you
  • They will seize your camera and look for “proof” of your photos – now at this point, you realize how helpless you are, cause if you did accidentally take a picture of their office or them, then you are in some deep mess.
  • If they have your camera and decide to threaten to dash it to the floor cause you insulted them, you really can’t do anything about it
  • They automatically ask where you’re from, and if you answer Trinidad, they think that you’re a threat. When you show them a Canadian passport, they ask why you said Trinidad. Then one might answer that you said Trinidad because you have no clue where it is and you might think it was American.
  • Making sarcastic jokes to Moroccan gendarme is not recommended according to the Surgeon General of Morocco. It is not also not recommended for the health of your camera in their hands and it is not recommended because you might have to pay Baksheesh.

However, if you stand your ground and refuse to pay the Baksheesh, demand your camera and demand that they call the Canadian embassy immediately, since there was no picture of them or the gendarme office on your camera, so they can’t charge you with anything, but maybe being an unobservant dumbass enjoying the marvelous scenery and being so taken with it, that you didn’t notice the police check point – they will back down.

Like anything else, if you stand your ground, they will smile, the sharp words will tone down and they will laugh, hand you back your camera and let you be on your way.

Moral of the story : Always know where you are. Always know your rights. Always stand your ground, if you’re right and don’t flinch. Always know that they fear any embassy call, even in the depths of the Atlas mountains.


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