Getting an illegal guide and Mendhi in Fez

Last Updated on June 5, 2009 by Christine Kaaloa

henna morocco

Getting an illegal guide in Fez

Margaret wanted to experience mendhi, so we asked our 15 year old guide, Outman for a recommendation.

Okay, he was an illegal guide and underaged. Not very socially-responsible of us, but it was a tough call and who’s to say what’s worse. At first, we were reluctant to take on as a guide. But his English was better than our older “official guide” the day before, who spoke as if he had a rag in his mouth and then held his palm out for tips!

As I said earlier, there are many young boys who work illegally, offering their services as guides. If caught, they are punished with two days of imprisonment and who wants a kid to be thrown into jail? Also, the alternative job we heard about and witnessed youth doing for money was working in the tanneries. Extremely back-breaking labor with very little money, not to mention, toxic fumes.

Our youth approached us first, by steering us clear of bad salesmen and giving us local tips of how to haggle low. Basically, he told us how much Moroccans actually pay for some of the items we were shopping for! If you’re Margaret and always looking for a bargain, you’ll find this honesty hard to part with.  As for me, I just felt we could trust him– he never set a fee and didn’t expect a tip– and moreover, I liked that I could understand his English.

We made sure Outman knew of the repercussions of his actions should he get caught and whenever we saw the police was near, we’d separate from him and meet up later. Honestly, we genuinely liked the kid, didn’t want him to get in trouble and trusted him not to rip us off. We hired  him for two days.


When in Morocco, why not try Mendhi?

The alley we took to get our mendhi done  was dark, but Outman assured us it was friendly and safe. He was taking us to a Berber house and to his friend’s mother, who does mendhi.

No harm.  Experiencing mendhi and seeing the inside of a Moroccan home was an exciting cultural experience for us!

Mendhi is used in many countries as a symbol for female rite of passage, adornment and/or celebration.  The most common use for mendhi is pre-wedding celebration, where the bride gets the front and back of her palms decorated.  Mendhi is a temporary tattoo which lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a month, depending on the quality of the henna. Neither Margaret or I, were getting married, but tourists often get them for souvenir purposes so we felt it was okay.

The mendhi is made from henna powder which comes from crushed leaves. It’s mixed into a paste and then it’s ready to be squeezed on. The woman doing Margaret’s henna prepared most of it in front of us. She then created her own design. The design doesn’t seem to hold much symbolic meaning though.

Margaret & I getting Mendhi @ a Fes Henna Souk, Morocco

After applying the henna, it must set for about 20 -30 minutes. When it’s ready, it will just flake off.

I’m personally not into mendhi because I’m not into permanent or semi-permanent designs on my body. Watching it was good enough for me, but the mendhi lady was kind enough to do my pinkie for free. It was non-committal enough, so why not?

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1 Comment.

  • My and my boyfriend booked a guide at our Riad in Marrakech. The riad had good comments on so we thought we can trust them. So next day, we meet our guide that barely speaks English and who did a tour of two sights and the rest were shops. At the end we ended up spending 80 euros for things that were worth way less. We were furious. I red before about this scams but I thought since its a guide we got from hotel and we could trust him. Since it was our second day there we were clueless and thought we were safe with the guide from riad that had good comments on after all. The guide cost 50 euros after all. We went to the hotel and complained next day they gave us another guide and tour to make up for the things that happened on the first tour but 80 euros that we over payed we never saw again. In riad also each time we asked for the food they tried to send us to some Italian restaurant or some more expensive place. We always had to ask we re searching something local or cheaper. As a woman travelling with my boyfriend there I didnt feel so secure there. All the time someone would try to catch your attention saying that the road was closed, trying to show your way, trying to pretend being nice and friendly while trying to overcharge you. Marrakech and Morocco are really beautiful and worth exploring but as a tourist people try to overcharge you all the time and at the end you never pay local prices. I was trying to find prices of lamps, carpets, oil on the internet just to know how to bargain but it was impossible to find. Also medina is hard to navigate and it is difficult to find recommended destinations.

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