As Arab countries around the world are battling politically, Morocco is facing lawlessness in its commercial industry. Since last year, many cities have seen a massive increase in illegal commercial activities, specifically in hawking or aggressive street vending. In Ouarzazate, many corridors of the City Centre are crowded with hawkers catering to foreign and local tourists. This profoundly affects both the trade and sight of the city. According to Moroccan law, any kind of illegal trade activity is considered as an exploitation of the public domain and punishable by fines, depending on the place and the activity.
Because of the rise in the number of hawkers, residents and tourists alike have found it challenging to stroll freely through El-Mouahidin Square. Vendors leave storefronts to call at or walk with potential customers to convince them to buy their wares. Also in the Square, people must navigate through products splayed out on the ground and vendors who advertise them. However, no one seems to buy anything from these hawkers. In order to discover the success of street hawkers, the Ouarzazate eNews team interviewed Omar Alhyan. Alhayan, a 47-year-old man, is a Ouarzazati women’s clothing salesman. His eyes showed a clear disappointment when he was compared the last ten years to today’s business. He said that
trade in Ouarzazate has become like the wild; lions plan and hunt their prey, but in the end the hyenas get the banquet.
Alhayan refers to the various taxes legitimate vendors pay to get strategic places at the center of the city, while recent hawkers get the places, circulation, and practice of selling for free. Alhayan also could not hide his anger toward the authorities when he spoke of the many fake promises, and sometimes no responses, each time legal vendors protest in front of the town hall. Eventually they realized they are on their own and must deal with the problem themselves. He added, “our livelihoods are in danger, we owe lenders money and if we don’t pay them back we may end up in jail.” As a result, some have started thinking about changing their careers to survive.
The new crowd of hawkers have not only affected trade in Ouarzazate, but has also distorted the beautiful sight of the city that takes pride in its clean streets. Some Ouarzazati residents, however, believe it to be an opportunity to buy clothes and houseware for cheap. Others also argue that illegal street vendors are indictions of poor living situations, and hawkers have the right to earn money to survive and help their families. But between the supporters and the oppositionists of this phenomenon, the law will inchallah have the final word.