Dumb Tourists, Dumber Thief…

We have been traveling for a while now and spent decent amount of time in third world countries. We know the rules: dress modestly, don’t show off your fancy clothes, electronics or jewelry, have non-discrete luggage, don’t brag about fancy things you have at home an so on. And most of the time we play by the rules – we wear local cheap clothes, I carry $3 purse bought at the balinese market and our whole wardrobe probably cost $100 for all of 4 us. We don’t have any jewelry or fancy watches. Overall we are relatively nondescript. The only luxury we are allowing ourselves is the electronics. The smart phone is essential for many different tasks: GPS, camera, video camera, notes, booking and many more other tools that make traveler’s life easier. But when you come to think of it, an average iPhone costs $500-1000, which is 2 year’s salary for someone living in the poorer part of the world. It’s like dangling a golden carrot in front of someone who would never be able to afford it. And generally we don’t. We keep the phones hidden and generally not try to shove it in people’s faces, but sometimes we do make stupid mistakes. So, here is the story…

The other day we decided to have an early dinner at El Jardin restaurant, really close to our riad. We didn’t feel like running around crowded souks and wanted to just lay low and have a mellow night. Little did we know… El Jardin is a very peaceful place, with a nice terrace filled with orange, olive and pomegranate trees and million birds flying around, we had a vey nice, relaxing dinner and after we were done, we headed back home.

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On the way, we stopped for a minute to enjoy the beautiful light created by the setting sun reflecting off the medina walls. Bobby was taking picture of me and the kids.

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The alley was mostly empty, except for one guy walking by. We decided to wait before we take a photo, so he doesn’t ruin our nice shot. The guy was walking by, then he slowed down a bit, and suddenly he snatched the phone out Bobby’s hands and started running. Bobby started chasing after him. Kids and I didn’t really understand what happen, but we started running after Bobby. For some reason at that moment I decided to start screaming “Help! Help” in the most obnoxious, squeaky voice. I knew that El Jardin is nearby and there was a guard in front of it. I was hoping he would hear me and catch the guy. And he did! The guard heard me screaming, saw Bobby chasing the guy, he caught the guy and started slapping him on the face. He got the phone away from him and gave it back to Bobby. In about a moment, a ginormous crowd of locals gathered around us, with everyone clamoring about going to the police. We weren’t really inclined to go to the police, we just wanted to have the phone back, but everyone was really insistent that we go. The policemen, wearing civilian clothes, came by, put handcuffs on the guy and asked us to come with them to the police office. We were hoping that they didn’t need me and the kids and Bobby could deal with them by himself, but for some reason they understood that it was my phone that got stolen, so they wanted all of us to go. We were taken to the police office, surrounded by a crowd of volunteers, who kept telling us how stupid the guy was and how they want to make sure that we are OK. Everyone was really concerned about our well-being. They were also really proud of the fact that they caught a thief. Bobby and I felt kind of sad for the guy. He is obviously a giant dumbass. What kind of idiot does one has to be to snatch a phone and run towards the place that usually has a person on guard? Did he think we were just going to stand there and wait for him to run away? If he would have run in an opposite direction, we would have never caught him, but he was stupid enough to run towards the guard. But even if there was no one on guard, there were a lot more people down the street, who probably would have caught him anyway. What was he thinking, I don’t know. So, we walked all the way down to the police office, to be asked by an investigator (or whoever that guy was) whose phone that was (Bobby’s) and he let me and the kids go. As I was walking home, several people recognized me and the kids and were asking me how it went. So, now we are like local celebrities, a.k.a the dummies who dangled their shiny new phone in front of a poor person. Oh, the price of fame! Bobby had to spend some time in the police office filling out the report and he came out feeling very guilty. He was ready to call the police back and tell them to let the guy go, but we figured that locals would never forgive us. They were so proud of themselves! I guess it’s a part of the Moroccan hospitality to make sure your guests are comfortable and nothing goes wrong with them. Plus, if everyone is robbed on the street, then no one would come, and here goes their livelihood. Most of the local merchants depend on tourist traffic to make their living, so it’s in their highest interest to keep tourists happy. But it didn’t make us feel any less guilty…