Revolutionary Drinking in Marrakech

Part 1: Flying fantasies

I do not like flying. Any flight over 3 hours leads to the exact same morbid desire. Despite holding no suicidal impulses, I have a fantasy every long-haul flight that the plane would crash.

I long for the pilot maybe to have either marital problems or a long suffering gambling addiction that makes them just feel like life isn’t worth living anymore. Once their co-pilot decides to dose off for a small snooze, they nose-dive the fucking plane. The oxygen masks that they’re always on about but you never see actually come down from above. Ignoring the instructions that have been repeated a million times, the young parents quickly put the masks over their children’s mouths before placing them on their own. It is fucking carnage though. This fucker is going down. All awhile, I will be at peace knowing I’ll be finally liberated from seat 14 B to never have to see the fat American cunt who snored the entire flight in seat 14 C or the fella giving me a dirty look when I stood up to use the bathroom in seat 14 A.

Not that I have the desire to actually die but I simply find sitting still horribly insufferable. From the take off, I want the entire process to be over. In fact, I want it finished before I even approached the customs officer that ignores my pleas not to stamp a fresh page. At last, this is the pain I had to suffer through my returning flight to Marrakech for the pleasure of something I wasn’t entirely sure why I had got myself into. I kept promising myself this would all work out. The flight was simply the tax I paid for being raised by parents that were far too encouraging of my travels. That said, there was no need for that American in 14 C to clap when the plane landed. Fucking tosser.

Part 2: Traveling Alone

I had arrived in Marrakech for my second time under much different circumstance. For one, I was traveling alone. During my previous holiday, I was traveling with a girlfriend. Well, she wasn’t actually my girlfriend at the time but we fell in love during this holiday. Ironically, we were supposed to return together but through a comedic amount of errors it was not meant to be. Before leaving on this holiday, I sent a drunken message saying I missed her and she asked if she could come but my e-mail got blocked because I travel like a drug mule. We didn’t like each other after that.

By virtue of being alone, I had to contend that this visit to Morocco would be a far different experience. Traveling with your significant other is appealing to many because the variables of your experience are far more set in. You’re going to get laid, drink a lot of champagne, and have a basic pedestrian experience that could be touching. Returning to a place alone that is associated with a previous relationship seems like a bit of a gamble. If you fail, does that mean you have not progressed since that relationship’s failure? Were all those happy memories you had not because the country was so great but because of that significant other, thus leaving you empty? It seems all a bit emotionally risqué for this sailor.

There is something to be said that traveling alone is far more beneficial. Couples have ‘holidays’, not ‘trips’. For those who travel as a couple, I am sure you might disagree with this. However as something so precarious and threatening to unravel the foundations of a relationship as travel is, it is difficult to imagine couples traveling for more than experience of pleasure to enrich that bond. That’s why you see them in nice hotels instead of the cheapest hostels. It is all right to fail alone because it will be a good story, whereas with your significant other you might end up traumatizing someone. That shit never ends well.

Naturally, I was a bit hesitant about traveling alone in Morocco. Not that I hadn’t traveled alone before nor was I worried about my safety. It was just tricky. Conventional wisdom would say, Morocco is the sort of place you need to travel with others or you’ve got to be quick about meeting people. Sure, there is plenty of tourist stuff to do but that’s not much of a social experience. It isn’t the sort of place you’ll strike up a random conversation. I don’t really have a tremendous amount of witty anecdotes about the Koutoubia Mosque to strike up a conversation with the Korean guy wearing bunny shoes, I’ll confess. Dope shoes though. More pressing, the country isn’t really famed for its drinking culture; something which can be the social lubricant to make some new Facebook friends. You can smoke a lot of dope, hit up the whores – as a lot of French/Gulf region tourists do – but those aren’t my thing and a pint is a tricky task. It was a little bit of a concern. Either way, I was there and I was going to have to make the most of it.

Part 3: The Reintroduction

Arriving in Marrakech felt like visiting a place I had an outer body experience in: I had been there but it was new all over again. It felt strange not having the old missus coming with me, but Christ confronting this nervousness is what travel is about: challenging your fears, being unsure, and not having a fucking clue what you’re doing! Yes! Yes! I was going to get out there and stop being a sad cunt. More importantly, I was going to message someone I knew to help me out.

A mate from university who was originally from Marrakech suggested messaging his cousin to hang out with. He ended up arranging everything for me because he’s a doll like that. I was told to meet her at the Café De France in the center of the Medina. I sat in the café making notes about ideas for articles for the upcoming week when she showed up. When she approached me, I just thought, “Shit, I underdressed.” A telling effect of the lovely mélange of cultures in Morocco is that when a person dresses up in Morocco, they look about ten times classier than any normal bastard. She had all that sort of elegance you simply can’t purchase as exhibited by rich Russians in Dubai. Clearly, my mate had a liberal disposition towards friends falling in love with his family by arranging for me to meet one of the most beautiful people I had ever met. Really, nothing else could’ve happened but love. I was already picking kid’s names out.

For reasons beyond me, she refused to speak English for the first hour. I speak very poor French yet we carried on a conversation throughout that time period about how Marrakech feels, the state of the country, and a whole matter of issues I didn’t entirely understand altogether. Clearly, she picked up on that it was time to switch to English as this old sailor was drowning in his attempts to re-call how to conjugate ‘er’ verbs.

She suggested that we leave this highly touristy café and head to the new area of Marrakech. During my previous holiday, I had just stuck to the tourist shit in the old area that everyone sticks to. To be honest, it was a pretty large relief to see people not wearing that traditional shit with snakes and ‘Made in China’ goods. We settled into a great conversational rhythm once she agreed that maybe my French was not sufficient enough to uphold a conversation. Just covering every imaginable subject with ease. Our conversation had the cadence that you could only have with someone you’re very comfortable with.

She had invited two friends of hers to join us for the evening. Both were rather similar to her in that they were both cosmopolitans effortlessly going in and out of four languages, unbridled by stereotypes that reduce Arab women strictly to religious sub-servants to male domination. They drank, they smoked, and they openly questioned the sexual and political norms. In a city such as Marrakech, that is defined and propagated as a city of the past, it becomes difficult to imagine beyond the façade that is the Medina, the restaurant stalls, and the monkeys you can get your photo taken with. The size and scope of this imagination is so tremendous that it is difficult to step outside of this gaze. It is amazing how engulfed tourists become within the depiction of Marrakech as ancient city that a break from that image seems almost shocking.

Before meeting my new love interest, I had breakfast with an Aussie and Chilean girl. I suggested they come out for drinks with all of us. Like all people in their twenties, we all wanted to get drunk, up the sexual tension, and most importantly throw off the barriers of sobriety. How did we successfully do this? We played drinking games: Truth or Dare? and Never Ever Have I. These games became a means for this multicultural drinking table to express their sexual identity, political convictions, and break from the presumptions of national identities. One person could admit that they were a virgin while another person could express a sexual interest in the same sex without judgment. Our difference just fueled our curiosity in one other. What was fun about this table was that we were honest, defining and refining ourselves, and we were getting a little fucked up.

From the most superficial view, this would be what you expect from a group of twenty-some years old people drinking together: drinking, flirting, and the such, but you need to look at it more closely to find something more profound. What I was seeing was a complete break from all my preconceived notions. Of course, I knew there had to be a counterculture in Marrakech and the rest of Morocco. Cunts got the internet here, of course. Rather, I was surprised that it wasn’t just a small clique of European-educated elites but for a weekday night there was a bar full of dynamic young people engaged in similar activities. Perhaps there was a little bit more on the go here.

Part 4: Drinking to Change

Living in Marrakech for young people is hardly a simple life. As of 2015, Morocco is ranked 128 out of 188 in the Human Development Index. More pressing, the economic struggles for young people are enormous. Youth from the ages of fifteen to twenty-nine represent 44% of the working population yet unemployment for males is 22% and a dire 38% for females. The resulting consequence is a youth population demoralized and alienated from an economic system that doesn’t reflect their needs. Likewise, it remains in many areas extremely culturally conservative, restricting the conduct of a population of young people actively engaged in mass culture through the web. Added to this a monarchy that holds minimal confidence among the general population, young people aren’t exactly too thrilled.

In rejection of controlling mechanisms and a disenfranchising economic system, sexually active youth, political dissidents, and a whole swath of individuals look to challenge the cultural hegemony that oppresses them through a beautiful protest: they get fucked up and make out. What you realize is conjuring in these cafés drinking, making crass sexual jokes, and hooking up isn’t just some Friday night in Marrakech. Drinking is radical politics.

Obviously, getting pissed might be not exactly part of the standard cannon of combating oppression. However, working from the basic assumption that all acts are political and embedded within the most monotonous aspects of our lives: how we consume, how we fuck, how we behave, etc. then why can’t drinking be political? Furthermore, drinking is politicalized particularly in Morocco. The country is overwhelmingly Islamic and attempts were even made by certain city mayors to ban drinking. Boozing has emerged as a stand against dominant norms by the young. It is an affirmation that one views themselves not inherently counter-Islam but rather a secularist that will not accept or look to determine other’s behavior. What intrigues me is not only the boozing but also the roles bars, pubs, and cafes that serve liquor in fostering that resistance.

These drinking establishments not only serve to get young people in Marrakech drunk and maybe the occasional adventurous tourist some kisses but they become spaces of resistance and cultivating a counter-hegemonic movement that demands democracy, secularism, women’s rights, and sexual autonomy. They become spaces where young people not only can practice the identities that they authentically hold but also to contest those identities that oppress and openly questions the system of powers. What matters isn’t so much that they drink but rather that the space is one that individuals are able to can act critically towards power structures where this isn’t always possible. It is these spaces of resistance that facilitates the transformation from “common sense” that accepts the norms of society to “good sense” that questions those structures.

What is most exciting about young people in Marrakech drinking in pubs that serve as spaces of resistance is that their protest and stance is acted out through pleasure. Far too regularly, protest take on the image of some act of sacrifice but in this instance the agent of change for young Moroccans is the pleasure of getting fucked up and maybe getting laid. In many ways, it is almost ingenious to see because the brilliance of the protest is that it is bound to win because who honestly can say that getting pissed, laughing, and maybe getting some loving could be unappealing? I doubt anyone. You start wondering if all those fucking NGOs went about setting up pubs across the world, maybe we’d have a better world. First pints, then the revolution.

Conclusion

Like anything in life, narratives are constructed retrospectively. You might hope for certain emotions or ideas but the rigger of time is the only mechanism to give an event any significance. It took me some while to line up my thoughts about being in Marrakech. Unlike so many places that I also had struggled to place into prospective, Morocco never ceased to make me curious.

At a most basic level, seeing the dynamism of what I saw in Moroccan youth really is why I travel. Cunts go on about seeing natural beauty like mountains or waterfalls. I couldn’t give a flying fuck about that stuff. Brilliant! A large amount of matter complied upon more matter. Really, what intrigues me is seeing people take a circumstance augment it, challenge it, but most importantly refuse to sit down and passively accept life. That’s not how life is meant to be lived and to all our great fortune it seems a segment of the Moroccan youth agree with me. Whatever prejudice or presumption that you hold that Morocco is some oriental land, know something far more exciting is happening.

On a more personal level, I left Marrakech with a certain sense of unease. It certainly was far more of a ‘trip’ than ‘holiday’ in that I was actually leaving the country with some ideas. However, I had a dreaded flight ahead of me that surely do to amazing innovations in aerospace technology would deny me a spectacular death to escape the discomforts of flying. I was particularly uncomfortable about leaving my friends cousin behind without any real conclusion

We liked each other, we kissed, and we really did express a real happiness to meet each other. However, I just assumed like any passing traveler that this would be nothing more than a small crush. I went on my way, boarded my flight, mistakenly was served meat, wanted the plane to crash, and then arrived home to book other flights. It didn’t really profoundly hit me that this might have been an astronomical error in my ways till a couple months later. Like any idea, it took me a while but it came. After some conversations between my friends cousin and I, it was mutually decided with a strong degree of urgency that I book a flight as soon as possible back to Morocco which I’ll do relatively soon. That will certainly be one flight in which I’ll hope to survive despite maybe having to sit next to a clapper.