Santiago crosses the Strait of Gibraltar and finds himself in Tangier, a city in northern Morocco, where a man he meets in a bar swindles him out of all his money. As a result of this unfortunate occurrence, Santiago realizes that he is like everyone else: "I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen and not what actually does." He decides to think positively — to consider himself an adventurer rather than a victim.
In desperate need of money, Santiago is hired by a crystal merchant, who tells him that even a year's wages would not pay his way to Egypt, which is thousands of kilometers distant. The crystal merchant offers to give Santiago enough money to return to Andalusia. But Santiago declines the offer, telling the crystal merchant that he'll work for him to earn money with which to buy sheep.
Prior to this episode, Santiago learned mainly from books. Here, however, he begins to learn from his experiences. What he learns first is that people deceive themselves about the world and the way it works.
More crucially, Santiago learns that he can continue to be a passive receiver of the events of his life, a victim — or he can embrace his experiences and move forward with purpose, thereby becoming an adventurer.
Santiago's realization — that he should see the world as it is, rather than how he wants it to be — would seem to contradict the king of Salem's advice, that if people follow their dreams, the universe will assist them. The author does not address this apparent contradiction, however.
In deciding to work for the crystal merchant so as to purchase a flock of sheep, Santiago believes he is moving forward, and he is — though not in precisely the way he imagines, as Part Two of The Alchemist will demonstrate.