I left Tangiers and its contradictions: major streets named after Beethoven and Mozart, people devoutly reading the Koran in the grocery store and playing prayer recordings at gas stations, with both nostalgia and relief.
As the train slowly moved out of the station into a desolate landscape of sunburnt fields with occasional sudden crops of sunflowers, a sight that would have made van Gogh happy, I started reading computer science papers on my laptop and playing pac-man in between.
I came across an interesting paper that described a new form of lifestyle, called Nu Nomads (I like to abbreviate it to Numad!): people who spend a significant part of their time travelling for work. I was happy and relieved at the same time. So there is a name for what I am (sort-of) doing! It’s usually good to find a new identity. The paper, entitled “Designing for Nomadic Work” by Norman Makoto Su and Gloria Mark, went on to compare modern nomadic workers who travel for their work and have to be on their laptops a lot and meet client “face-to-face” with “pastoral nomads”, traditional tribes that travel to sustain their animal husbandry. The researchers identified the modern mobile office, usually consisting of a laptop, smartphone and so on, with a main animal that the pastoral nomads care for. They also draw parallels between searching for resources (e.g., internet connectivity, power in the case of numads and good pasture for pastoral nomads) and maintaining relationships with fellow nomads (via social networks and conference calls for numads and through tribal relationships and rituals for pastoral nomads). It was a good read.
Arriving at Fez, I checked into a nice hotel and had an afternoon nap before the evening call to prayer. At that time I went for another traditional “iftar” which consisted of milk, orange juice, hard-boiled egg, a super tasty soup called Harira, sweets and dates.
The streets were completely empty after “iftar” and I walked to the old town where lots of people were sitting drinking tea and smoking (mainly cigarettes but also lots of hash). The streets were amazingly intricate and since it was night I only stuck with the ones with people in them. I exercised my 3d navigator skills learned after years of playing Wolfenstien and Doom by finding my way back to the main entrance. Before coming back I heard another call to prayer and everyone started going through a door into a large mosque that was hidden in the souqes. I followed and for a few minutes sat there listening to the sound of Arabic prayers and people repeating them.
I decided to postpone exploring more of the old town to daytime hours and walked back to the new town where lots of people in Western clothes were walking down streets or sitting corner-to-corner at coffee shops drinking coffee or tea and smoking. I met a young man who said he was going to marry an American girl in a month. She was to bring him to the US where he was gonna become a barber, hoping to gather money to send his parents to pilgrimage in Mecca. I found his story and his dream fascinating. It would be a good plot for a novel!
I continued walking down the street for a few more hours taking the sounds, sights and smells in. The city was totally alive with lots of children playing in the park when I felt exhausted at 1 am and decided to go back to the hotel.