Tanger , Morrocco , January 5 th, 2014
The trip from Casablanca took 5 hours by train and 5 stars from class. Suddenly for the first time I had to worry about finding a hotel, navigating a new place, getting from the station to my hotel. All these basic travel initiations you must go through. I went from a luxurious hotel room with comfy everything to being shown my room and having a guy in underwear with his thingy clearly outlined standing there like he had just come out from anesthetic ( and later snoring) in my strange smelling room..
My hotel is a youth hostel located in the middle of the medina. Medina is an old walled in part of the city that serves as a market and housing for many poorer families, but should be the word for maze. Finding your way here is impossible. Sometimes the passageways are only a meter wide and you have no way of knowing if this passage will connect to another or will be a dead end. If you happen to forget a turn, a marker, a sign then you can be hopelessly lost forever or until someone saves you. When young kids see a new tourist wandering around they show the way for money. Half of the young people working the streets are like rabid dogs, descending menacingly on tourists, hounding them in their faces, demanding to be paid attention to. If you choose to ignore them and wear a headphone as I choose to do, they become insulted and even more aggressive. Later I found out why. Even some of the older men who are guides are yelling after us. Sadly, after 2 minutes you just stop looking at them. ” Hey, come to the Rolling Stone Cafe with me”, I hear, but dont look around. I stop to get a delicious egg sandwhich in a strange kind of bread, and head out in search of the square where I was told I could play street music.
I arrived by train about 5 pm ( I didn’t want to miss my last free breakfast at the palace) and shared a taxi with the sailor and his wife who shared my compartment in the second class train ride. from the train. I had to pay one of the rabid to find my place. Later after I checked in I asked the man at desk where I could play street music. He gave me a name Rifa Circle. He was also excited because there was a jam session in a club nearby and we would go together. After a nap I set out at 7 pm. The first thing was to find my way out. Again the rabid were upon me, but with the aid of some headphones and some older people who were kind and apologetic at the behavior of their children, I was able to find the way out. Then I retraced my steps and came back again. Finally I set off and after a few tries I found the square. I set up and started playing. The reaction was mixed, most surprised, some not interested and some opposed. It was fun. A little scary at times though as some rough individuals walked by. One, who looked like a gang leader, stopped and looked at me menacingly, before breaking out into a smile and giving me the thumbs up. A few fans stopped by and sat for a while. There was one artist who drew some portraits of me and some kids who were in a rock band wanted me to play with them.. Little by little the friends drifted off and I was left with some young kind of wild looking teenagers. Then I saw the saddest thing, The reason why these kids all looked the same, all had pained confused demeanors. I could see it, they were all sniffing glue. I saw the tubes, saw them squirt the glue on their hands and rub it for a second and then cup their hands to their face. I’ve never sniffed glue, but I’ve gotten a little dizzy from gas or glue fumes enough to know that it’s a violent disorienting experience. These kids were deadening themselves with it, sometimes literally. One strange looking boy with one frosted eye and a scalp injury stopped to listen. He looked dangerous, like he might pounce at any moment. But I looked into his good eye and saw he was listening. At one point I played a nice lick and we shared a smile. He was ok, he liked me, but he was still dangerous. He attracted other learing jackals. Soon I felt surrounded. I felt like they were closing in and there was nothing I could do about it. I felt trapped. These kids were crazy and there was some evil in them. Now there were 5 of them. I should have stopped earlier, before 930. Suddenly I heard a voice. “Hey do you remember me? There was a squat older man who had been listening for a while back about 20 meters. I had seen him nodding his head and smiling with his with his gravely face standing just I outside the circle of jackals. I didn’t know him but I pretended that I did. ” hey hi, how are you doing?” The boys backed off for a second. “I wanted to talk to you. Come and have tea with me.” he motioned to a cafe just 15 meters away. It was my escape. He came and sat next to me while I put my things away. The gang of boys losing there chance dispersed like mist and shrank away. ” do you remember me” ” did you make my egg sandwich? ” no ” he laughed.” you saved me. Thanks so much.” ” don’t mention it. Your music is great. You are an artist”
We sat in the cafe and he ordered 2 coffees. The coffee was served as a shot in a glass and the waiter poured in milk till you told him to stop. It was strong and tasty. He was a guide. He wore the traditional Moroccan dress called a jillabah with the cute little pointed elfs’ cap. We spent a long time trying to remember where we met. “The rolling stone cafe. I told you about it. You pretended not to hear. ” That was him. It had been hard to remember since I hadn’t actually seen him. He seemed very centered and forthright and spoke English. He would sit by the window of Ahmet’s cafe and call out through the oversized window to tourists. He did guide work or made arrangements. ” I spend all my life with tourists. I speak 9 languages. Sweden. You been Sweden? I speak Swedish.. You been Germany…..” Etc etc. “you know how to get back to your place? I will take you.” his guide robe was showing. He read my expression, ” no not like that. You are my friend now. You are an artist, I’m your fan” I wasn’t so sure. I showed him some street snack someone had given me; it was like chocolate chiffon. I hadn’t tried it. “What do you call this” I asked curiously. “That. We call it “candy” Shamia in my language.” I shared it with him. ” good one” he commented as he tried. It It was delicious. I had never had anything quite like it. It was smooth and sweet with a dash of a nut flavor. Only 1 dirham on the street here, and it was everywhere at night. That along with the cheap fresh dates would make sure that my blood sugar would never fall.” thanks for saving me.” “it’s alright. Those kids.. ( he shook his head)….it’s a war.” it was a growing problem on everyone’s minds. What to do about these kids. The glue was making them crazy, hostile, aggressive.
” we have good chocolate in Morocco. Good chocolate hash too. ” wow smooth seague. Now his business side was showing again. He pulled a chocolate covered disc the size of a large quarter from behind his ear somehow. “this is the best. 0-0 . You know 0-0?” I had to admit my ignorance. “Why do you call it 0-0?” he looked at me like I was an idiot. ” 0-0. It’s better than number 1. ” Ok. There was a certain logic there and after all the Arabs did invent zero. Maybe that’s where it came from, a hash deal. I felt somewhat obliged to go through with it. ” How much is it?” As I put the question, his mind stopped dead. He was caught between his business self and his fan self. On the one hand this was his job, but on the other hand, he really admired and was thankful to me. I could see it going back and forth in his mind. His big head looked like a speed punching back going back and forth. Finally he stopped. ” I will give you friend price, not tourist price. Sometimes to tourists I get 20 Euros. For you just 50 dirhams (about 6 dollars). I gave him the money. It seemed like a good price, and anyway he had stood up to the jackals for me. He immediately loaded up a long wooden pipe with some marijuana and started smoking. I declined. ” look at this 0-0. It looks like candy” ” I sit here all day and meet tourists, you want guide, hotel, hash….this is my life.” I looked around the bar, and other old men were quietly smoking something. ” tomorrow I show you everything, the medina, I will show you. ” ” no I don’t usually get a guide, I just walk around” ” no I am not your guide, just friend. ” ” come’on Moustafah, you are guide, that’s what you do.” ” he looked at me and shrugged and smiled sheepishly. “Ok. ….Now you play.” ” here?” ” yes here.”
So with old hash smoking mustafahs and Mohamed’s looking on I played some more jazz. Since they were all stoned anyway, I was a big hit. Smiles all around. A young man came over and introduced himself as Ahmed’s, the son of the owner. ” you are welcome to play here anytime”. We made arrangements for the following night. Another guy came up. moustahfah my savior introduced him as his friend. He works in a hotel near you. He will take you home.” That was a big relief. There was a discussion about whether to keep the big window gate that covered 1/2 of the front of the structure open or closed. I insisted on open and as I played people strolling on the street stopped to listen for awhile. Some even came in for a tea. I was good for business. Ah’med brought me another tea for free. I played another song. Another musician came in. He told me about a kind of music I had never heard of called g’nowa music that was created by Moracans of Sudanese descent in the south. It was wonderful .it sounded a little like a reggae / soul / hip hop fusion (if you know what I mean)
It was getting time to go. I looked at the new guy Amir and he motioned he was ready. “So Moustafah, will I see you here tomorrow? ” Of course this is my home”. “This is MY home, “I insisted. “It’s our home” he smiled. To the others I added, ” he’s my father. DADDIE!!!!” Moustafah scowled. In a lower tone I said, “granddaddy!”
Amir took me home. On the way he showed me his hotel. It was just 1 minute from my place. It was actually owned by a 50 something attractive French woman. He was her helper and apparently her lover. The hotel was nice and full of lovely things. I kept hoping they would ask me to stay, but they didn’t. He introduced me as her present , and I played a French song for her. She was captivated. We talked for about an hour after that. Mostly I questioned Amir about his beliefs. I learned a lot about Muslim beliefs from him. Most importantly I saw his strong desire to have his beliefs. They were not to be questioned.
He told me the main difference between Christians and Muslims was that Christians believe that Mary was impregnated by God and Muslims believe she was knocked up by an angel. Big deal. And here I was thinking Islam was so much less involved in magical thinking, but no, apparently not. He told me that there are good angels, good ghosts and bad ghosts. At one point I told him I thought sometimes that God was speaking through me when I played the saxophone” No that’s impossible, because the last person God will ever speak to was Mohammed the last prophet, so he couldn’t have spoken to you or through you. The best possible was a good ghost” wow i didnt even rate an angel. He said that when the end of the world comes Mohammud will forgive his sins, not God. ” So Mohammud is still alive?” “No he’s dead. He was just a man.”
“then how will he forgive me?”. “He will come back from the dead that day. ” ” how nice. How convenient” “So that’s your belief?” ” no that’s the truth” how do you know it’s true?” it’s in the Koran.” ” How do you know that what’s in the Koran is true?” “because God spoke through Mohammed and that made the Koran.” He couldn’t see that his argument was circular. It made me dizzy. I ended up my first night in Tanger safely but tired at 1 am. More adventures would come tomorrow.
Tanger , Morrocco , January 5 th, 2014