Morocco? Ha! What can I say about the place that taught me how to smile? A whole lot! The people, the food, the sights! I can go on for a very long time here just jibbering and jabbering! But let’s gets specific. Bar culture in Morocco! Picture this, I am straightening the lapel on my jacket, admiring myself in true narcissistic fashion in a shop window, impressed at the black suit I bought in the local Medina open air market. I am thinking to myself “nothin’ like a fitted suit!” as my friends yell at me to hurry up. We go along the night city streets avoiding periodic rebars sticking out of the sidewalk. I don’t know what project the city had in mind for those but I came to the conclusion this is no place for jogging or running of any kind. We get to the bar of a hotel some 7-8 blocks from where we had our exchange program apartments. I do the usual look around I would do in any bar around the world to “check out the ladies” and to my wonderful surprise the room is a playboy’s dirty dream! In a small hotel bar around the hotel pool they had some 30-40 beautiful young women just lounging about. I spot my program Director Daniel and we get waved over to rejoin our 15 person group spread across a few tables around the pool chatting the usual college nonsense of “when I grow up I wanna be…” or a silly rivalry about college sports, as among the 15 of us, 15 separate schools were represented. It was a perfectly normal bar experience except for the fact that all those women around us were prostitutes. That is correct, prostitutes! I learned that in most all tourist spots across Morocco, they have a socially acceptable sex trade around bars. I use socially acceptable casually here, I never saw people picketing bars anywhere I went and I am sure general Moroccan society frowns upon the industry, but they don’t seem to do anything to stop it. You go to bars with your own group. You don’t go there to meet new people, unless you wanted to partake in this peculiar kind of service. This at first shocked my western sensibilities but, like all things, you get over it. I had a wonderful time going to dance clubs and bars throughout Morocco and I was never hassled or bothered by anyone in these places. I do have the advantage of being male. I say this because in this culture this affords me significantly more leeway in my actions than if I were a woman. I obviously don’t agree with this, but I wasn’t in Morocco to attempt to change centuries of how the sexes should be treated. I never saw the women in my program get hassled because when they were with me, my male “protective umbrella” extended to them. I was their culturally acceptable escort. However when they went on outings by themselves they would always come back with remarkable stories of men following them for blocks doing all sorts of crazy catcalls. They never touched my female friends, but they didn’t really give up easily either.
This leads me into Moroccan dating culture, as far as it was explained to me, this is 100% normal! People actually meet each other this way sometimes and go out for fruit smoothies or cafes that have a lover’s back room where they can get to know each other. I learned of these “lover’s quarters” at cafes when trying to escape the Moroccan heat! I just waltzed on back there with 2 friends when suddenly we noticed only pairs of people were sitting at tables sipping on tea or coffee with Roses in the center. At first I felt awkward and slowly backed away but I think it’s actually kind of a cool cultural concept; keep the couples out of site! Nobody wants PDA! 😉