This was posted on the blog “View from Fez” back in September. Now that it is tourists season I think it bears repeating. It applies not only to Morocco.
Gifts from Abroad?
Our Social Reporter Lumen has been doing a little thinking about a recent post on Tripadvisor.
There’s a very informative travellers’ website dubbed ‘Get the truth. Then go’ called Tripadvisor (www.tripadvisor.com). When I’ve got time I like to browse the topics and will reply if I think I can contribute something to the Morocco pages. The other day an old chestnut of a question hit the pages:
Heading to Morocco with my wife this week from NYC. We were wondering if there was anything "western" we could bring with us- not to trade but to give away to those less fortunate. We are not wealthy by any means but not starving either.
We will be in Fez, Marrakech, and Agadir for about 10 days total.
I hope I don't sound pompous.....just trying to be nice.
Thanks for your help.
Now I seem to remember my son going off to Malawi many years ago, and they took old t-shirts and new bicycle tyres to give away where appropriate. But Malawi was then, and still is, a desperately poor, now AIDS-ravaged, third-world country where the people might benefit from something given in good heart by tourists visiting from rich, first-world countries, or in our case, visiting Malawi from South Africa, a better-off, developing country.
XYZ’s question worried me a lot and got me a-pondering. What was it that made me so uncomfortable with the concept?
After a lot of thought, I decided that I really don’t like the idea of rich Americans thinking that doling out something ‘western’ will ease the plight of people in Morocco. There’s an arrogance there that these poor unenlightened Muslims might benefit from something ‘western’ that a rich (or this case, not starving) New Yorker could bring to ease their lot.
While still in pondering mood, I went to Marjane at the weekend and looked around to find something that I couldn’t buy. It’s true, I have to admit, that I can’t find Marmite, at least not in Fez. That’s an English thing, I suppose. But I can find everything else that I could find in my own supermarket in my own home town.
In the end, it’s ignorance on XYZ’s part; he’s showing his total lack of education and knowledge of the world. Morocco isn’t a third-world country. It’s a developing country. Sure, there’s lots of poverty and people from ‘western’ countries could look upon a lot of it with pity in their hearts and wonder what they can do to alleviate the lot of the poor.
In the end, I advised XYZ that bringing himself and his wife to Morocco and spending their tourist dollars here would provide jobs and keep people in employment. I said he should bring smiles and an open mind.
However, someone from Devon in the UK had the opposite reaction. She suggested he should bring pens, pads of paper and MacDonalds toys to give out to the children who are less fortunate. This is a common idea, I’ve seen it from Burma to Nepal to India and is something that perpetuates the common cry of Moroccan children: ‘un dirham’ or ‘un stylo’; something that really grates on my nerves, particularly as most of the time the children don’t actually know what they’re saying. This Devon person even said in her amazingly paternalistic fashion – ‘their faces are a picture – not to be missed’. I don’t like it; if you really want to help children, then find a school and donate some funds or pens and paper for them.
In response to this nauseating suggestion, a wonderfully erudite (but to me, unknown) contributor by the name of Dysfunctional said, ‘How would you feel when Japanese tourists started handing out pens, pads of paper and Macdonalds toys to children in the streets of sunny Devon?’
My sentiments exactly.