Features & Images » Travel

Morocco

In ways a different world entirely

by

2 comments

Page 2 of 2

But around 5 p.m. Jane would go after for her glass with ice. Most often a hotel barman or restaurant staffer would react dismissively, even angrily — barking, "No, no — Ramadan." But Jane would persist, taking her rejected demand on to the hotel manager, who occasionally relented.

One afternoon, in a garden hotel in the modern city of Ouarzazate — somewhere along the spectacular Highway of a Thousand Kasbahs — Jane was handed a single chunk of ice too large for the glass. In trying to jam it in, the glass broke. Not knowing what to do with the broken glass, we left it half-hidden in the garden.

The only obvious exception to the widespread lack of daytime eating-places was in the tourism-driven city of Essaouira. Here, in the early afternoon, non-Muslim visitors crowd into a narrow plaza lined with open-air restaurants for a cold drink (mostly non-alcoholic) or lunch.

Oddly, these patio cafes sit directly across from a mosque outside which, at mid-day, hundreds gathered to pray. The result is the odd juxtaposition of mostly scantily clad foreigners flagrantly indulging in their victuals, while fasting Muslims are bowed in prayer on the paving stones a few feet away. To pass through the plaza, one had to negotiate a narrow path between these two realities.

Our driver Yusuf, dressed in fashionable T-shirts and cargo pants, regularly went off to pray. Similarly, our local guide to Fes, wearing a traditional jellaba, left us haggling over leather goods to take in a half an hour of worship. Our mostly unhappy tour guide Khaled, while not obviously religious, said (with implied regret) that if any of his fellow Muslims showed signs of breaking the fast, he or she would be ostracized.

Having exhausted her supply of martinis, Jane, like the rest of us, made do with the occasional beer. Then on our final day back in Marrakech, Khaled directed us to a suburban supermarket from which Jane emerged with at full-size bottle of Beefeater London Dry Gin.

Back in the hotel, she and I plied what I later learned was an embedded jigger from the neck of the bottle with the corkscrew I carry in my suitcase, and happily settled down for a final glass of gin—neat, no ice.

The following day I flew to Amsterdam, while Jane remained in Marrakech for a final day of carpet negotiation, before heading back to California. I couldn't but wonder what happened to the rest of the bottle of gin.

Tags