For the Sams (SamSam and Petit)
Brace yourself for stories of mysterious medina gateways, ochre and royal blue clashes of colours and mountains of couscous: this is morocco were talking about.
I did see Casablanca’s medina (or at least the entrance of it) and perhaps one tenth of the entrance of the royal palace in Rabat, but the truth is, as I went there for work, I now know tiny little streets adorned with orange trees ( after all, we ARE in Morocco) rather than beautiful touristy places.
And in a way, I’m glad I do.
Take that blue taxi with me on our Rabat journey, and I’ll show you kindness and hospitality. First of all, Moroccan taxi drivers don’t sleazily look at you in the rear mirror, trying to make eye contact that’ll prompt heaving noises emanating from you as you vomit, the way Lebanese drivers to. Well, none of the exactly 10 taxis rides in two days I took did, so I m just basing myself on that statistics. Second, they don’t insult you if you don’t have exactly their fare the way same Lebanese drivers do. Instead, they’re just kind and nice and polite. (For a more in depth look at how much of a nuisance Lebanese taxi drivers can be (most of them ex militiamen) please see here)
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m kind of rather chatty and love to start conversations, like with that Nigerian student we dropped on our way to les Orangers. He was amazing: he was the ultimate co pilot you’d want to have, showering Fuck you man! Right left and center to anyone who dared to come in front of us or was not respecting priorities, which kind of happened a lot. Pulling over at the Nigerian embassy, he just went: that’s my flag right there man! His good mood was contagious, so I just laughed and told him I had gone to Nigeria and loved it, which owed me a thanks man! And a high five. Then he properly looked at me and went: where are you from?
Now this question is often tricky, as answering you’re Lebanese can have several effects, some of them unpleasant (as in: Lebanese huh? Sleazy disgusting stare, wink wink) (damn you Haifa Wehbe) (damn you patriarchy) but I took the plunge anyway and gave him my Cedarland origins. Aha! Lebanese huh? Can I have you number? As he wasn’t sleazy or invading my private space Or giving me horrid winks, I politely said no ( I’m married you see) ( gGod sometimes it really does serve me well) and he went his way, wishing us good luck and carrying on his buoyant journey. He said he’d been in Morocco only for a few weeks: I couldn’t help wishing him well, and hoping he’ll still fire fuck yous to inconsiderate drivers.
This left me and my cabbie on our way to a teeny street tucked away in les orangers, taking on our way a Lalla going about her business in another part of Rabat. After circling the orangers for about ten minutes it became acutely clear that I didn’t know where I was going, that my cabbie didn’t know where I was going and that it was a bit of a problem. Automatically, Cabbie and Lalla made it their own private mission to drop me at the exact point I should be dropped if their life depended on it. Loubnanyah? Asked Lalla with a grin. Naam, said yours truly with an even bigger grin. Ahlan! You have to learn maghrebi! We’ll find where you need to go! And with that all other plans were put to a halt and the quest began. So here I was, sitting at the back, stuttering apologies for wasting people’s time ( I’ve lived in Geneva, city where if you’re not polite, you can be shunt out of Switzerland by Calvin or something) Cabbie asking on his left, Lalla on her right, until we arrived, me still apologizing, them still shouting words of welcome.
When I retold that story to my Moroccan best friend, she said they loved Lebanese, to which I just think that it’s not that they love the Lebanese, it’s just that they themselves were kind. Mind you, I often heard the ‘we love the Lebanese’ claim in Tunis, Egypt and now Morocco. If we loved ourselves as a people as much as other people love us, we would have gotten rid of our appalling so called politics a long, long time ago, but anyway, I digress.
Talks of elections, constitution reviews, organic laws and 20th February movements, slut walks and Islamist political parties rolled during two days, and I found myself back on the plane to Beirut, my mouth full of cornes de gazelle and my mind and heart set on Moroccan tales.