How fascinating! I had a similar experience to your Marrakesh adventures in Egypt some fifteen years ago. I traveled there alone and I was seventeen, and it just seemed like a different planet, although it was probably a lot less colorful and crazy than your Morocco decades ago. Still, the complete and utter Cairo chaos with camels and donkeys and butchers and perfume oils and kids and prayers, and then the stark, unforgiving desert - I was blown away.
Just like people in Cuba, we in Soviet Lithuania too stood in lines without knowing what was being sold. It's funny what things you remember - I was only a kid when the Soviet Union fell.
Some time in 1989, my dad got sent to an arts conference in Sweden, something pretty unheard of back then, and of course Sweden was the modern, chic, dazzling West in our eyes back then. My mother told dad to buy me some sneakers - an unspeakable luxury in a country where kids had two options for shoes: leather sandals, either in red or black. Sneakers, on the other hand, was a whole different ball game. Sneakers was America and rock and roll and freedom.
However, my mother got it into her head that the Swedes probably had different shoe sizes, and she worried my dad would get the wrong size. So she measured my feet and cut out a little wooden stick the length of my foot. My poor dad had to go into shoe stores in Stockholm with that ridiculous stick, to measure the coveted sneakers for size. He was mortified - but he got me the sneakers, and they were the most glorious sneakers ever, white with pink velcro straps - a splendid, glorious beauty in the world of the tatty leather sandals.
I can see how Cubans thought all Americans lived in mansions. In Havana, we were often quoted ridiculously steep taxi prices and when we said no, we were met with genuinely surprised, "but it's nothing to you!".
Hearing Cubans speak Russian to me, or telling me how they studied in Riga or lived in Bulgaria, but most of all, asking anxiously, "when did it all change for you? How long did it take? Oh, it's too late for me, then..." - that was beyond surreal and so heartbreaking.