CASABLANCA, Jan 23 – It’s been four days and three nights since I landed in what I first thought was the haggard concrete remnants of the KGB’s last North African outpost and started to carefully ponder everything in my life that had led me to this point.
Well, today I stole a glance behind the slit in Casablanca’s long skirt and wasn’t disappointed with what I saw. Forgive the analogy but (quite apart from the fact that sex sells and the fact that some of us, if we’d been buying would have loyalty cards we could shop on by now) it’s a fitting analogy because I’m beginning to think that Casablanca has been flashing hints of her hidden beauty at me that I would have seen if I’d just taken the time to notice.
This lunchtime I took a walk down into the small banking district a stone’s throw away from my hotel.
My tutor and friend had been urging me to go there for days but the disappointment of my first impressions had left me lukewarm to any invitations to explore.
Mine was a mind solely focused on doing whatever evil it was that had conspired to bring me here and offending enough locals (I had been revising some choice Arabic insults to serve the immigration officer on my way out) to ensure I was declared persona non-grata, guaranteeing that I would never again set foot in this place, that appeared to have been forsaken by both god and satan for equally valid, if opposite, good reasons.
Well as any pubescent teenage boy can tell you, when in doubt, peek, because you may like what you see and I did.
The banking district is full of buildings with exotic names and even more exotic designs.
All the buildings have design features that are as pointless as they are beautiful.
One building is (somewhat pretentiously) called, ‘Le shadow’.
It’s clad all over in dark granite and black-tinted glass with a concave curved façade and is weirdly shaped and angled, kind of like the artsy fartsy buildings you get in our upper hill, if not as large, and it’s a genuinely interesting sight to behold.
Another is called the ‘business traveler espace’ (or something equally preposterous) and is shaped like a ship’s bow with all manner of glass and steel chicanery, all for completely aesthetic reasons and all pretty as you like too.
I’m forced to think back to our vodka blanched human guinea pig and forced to confess that he probably would never have come up with any of this.
This was done by a person with a tummyful of cous cous, high on LSD, after a happy night out on the medina.
The spirit and vitality I had so bemoaned as lacking in Casablanca when I first arrived, was at last beginning to reveal itself.
Lunch took me to a restaurant with trendy seating and small slender silver statuettes decorating the series of (yes pointless and yes beautiful) breaks in its internal walls.
And no, lunch wasn’t clear vodka and a bowl of white flour.
It was a bowl of savoury rice and fish with a calamari and fried pepper garnish and a chocolate and vanilla dessert that was nothing short of divine.
Lunch left me looking forward to Friday so I can get myself downtown to discover more of Casablanca’s hidden secrets.
I was now warmed to every new invitation to explore and as luck would have it, a Moroccan comrade (colleague) at our field station, (branch office), offered to take me into Casablanca proper on the weekend and show me everything, from ‘the biggest cinema in Africa’, to the beaches and the souk (soko) where I’m hoping I can find a curvy-spouted, genie-sprouting, Arabian nights, Ali baba mint-tea kettle (the choice drink in this gulag, erm sorry, resort town) and see all the life there is to be lived in the home of Bogart’s famous one liners.
Lunch had also erased the staccato Arabic insults I had rehearsed for the immigration officer (you son of a crooked humped one eyed rabid flea infested camel) on the dramatic exit I had planned.
This brings me to tales of disappointment. Guinea Pig (or GP seeing as we are by now on nickname terms) had his memory erased to save himself and others from the disappointment of returning to the puritan east from the decadent delights of the west.
How typically short-sighted of the Soviets! I find that disappointment can sometimes be the best of allies. She rejects you, only because she’s getting ready to introduce you to her single twin sister, appreciation.
As much as I was under whelmed by the prospects handed down, by a town, that shamelessly flaunts knock off boutiques called ‘Bo Boss’ (complete with the Hugo Boss trademark Maroon colors and font!) I find myself mildly excited at the prospects, of a town, that can offer up the pleasance of the similarly Maroon walled Zenith restaurant, crossing my fingers that its name doesn’t prophesy the peak of my experiences here.
Well, only time will tell, but my hopes have been raised. So, watch this blank space, hopefully, for more samples of Casablanca colour to come.