Tangiers in Ramadan

I was surprised to find two movies I wanted to see on the flight to Paris from Toronto. One was “The Past”, Jafar Farhadi’s new film that is shot in France and the other was “Despicable Me”, a popular animation known to be light and funny. Watching Farhadi’s movie was hard and not only because one of the side characters who undergoes a lot of pain is my namesake. I could identify too much with the main character and it’s not a happy movie. But it was an excellent watch on the plane. I followed it, appropriately with the much more chilled and light “Despicable Me”.

In France, I met a friend and relative after many years and spend most of the day talking about everything from travel to theater. In the evening, we had a pleasant riverside dinner. A shocking thing about Paris was how empty it is these days because most people take their vacations during August and July. During our conversations, I realized I will be in Morocco during the last days of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. During this month, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and have a mini-feast called “iftari” every night. Since I was traveling, I was not required to fast but had to be respectful and not eat outside and also couldn’t go to the famous cafes and restaurants during the day. I decided not to eat and drink during the day anyway and take part in the evening festivities.
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I had a grand entrance to Morocco where my backpack arrived soaked in a mysterious liquid I later realized was maple syrup: one of the bottles I had brought from Canada as gift was not able to endure handling by Royal Air Maroc staff! (Although I have to say it was partially my fault and I had not packed it properly). Arriving from the airport, I was driven by a driver who was shocked to hear I was originally from Iran and kept repeating my Arabic name! I decided to stay in the legendary Munirie hotel. This is the hotel William Boroughs stayed in and wrote his infamous Naked Lunch novel: a novel that was rescued in fragments from under piles of garbage and vomit and is a hallucinatory account of heroin visions and sexual adventures. My stay will be more boring, as I am not into boys or heroin and am happy to share the same wildly creative space for a night of imagination and nostalgia. The hotel is tucked into a side street, is central, cheap and clean.

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After checking in, I went for a walk around the old town or medina and was immediately lost! I was planning to find a museum about the Beats but soon gave up and started following crowds of people buying foodstuff for iftar in the market. Many different kinds of sweets, bread and olives were on display. I made a resolution to come out and try to find good iftar place in the evening. My plan unfortunately failed because I fell asleep and when I woke up the prayer was already over and all the iftar places were out of special food. I settled on a mediocre tagine and decided to try my luck the next day.
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Tangiers still retains some of its seedy feel and especially the old city did not feel safe at night. Having said that, it is still a very interesting place and walking along the main cafe-lined boulevard I saw a couple of interesting things: a fire broke out in a shopping mall with many people gathering and becoming excited and a group of communist activists suddenly started rallying and shouting in the street. I soon got tired of walking and headed back to my hotel, ready for a good night’s sleep before heading out in the morning.

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