The clichés of Morocco

You walk the dark streets of Casablanca while listening to The National.

Such a cliché

Matt Berninger sings “You must be somewhere in London walking every lane”. You see yourself in the lyrics. You put the moody sounds into the 31 degree evening and walk on past the smoking men with their evening papers.

You walk with heavy steps; looking into people’s eyes as if you know something they don’t. You think that these streets are yours. These empty yellow streets where cats hug the walls and people walk quietly next to the petit red taxis. You walk every lane in this Arabic costal town with its oversized seaside mosque.

The begging women on the streets raise their hand towards you. They want one diram as they bend their heads down towards the pavement. You walk past them, never meeting their eyes. Past the luxury hotels on the street named after the former king, past the idle security guards.

You increase your pace as the drums in “England” gallop in your ears. You beat your dirty black shorts with your dirty white hands. You stand in an intersection together with two cats, dusty colonial buildings around you.

You think your loneliness is reflected in the music, as if it is some kind of internal art exhibition. You walk past raised hands and lowered heads on the boulevards, walk with your melancholy, with your self-absorbed thoughts, with your carefully selected second hand wardrobe.

Such a cliché.

“I never thought about home when I thought about love” Matt Berninger sings in “Bloodbuzz Ohio”. You walk past more cafés and more Moroccan men who sit with their coffees and rusty skin. You walk past everyone, past the cheap souvenirs, the newspaper salesmen who spread their Arabic and French papers on the sidewalk, past the fake Rolex sellers, past the couples, past the tourists with cheap straw hats, past the old man who sells individual cigarettes for two diram, past the restaurant owners who asks if you are English, past the bored security guards outside the bank buildings, past the taxi drivers who wash the dust of their taxi’s with bottles of water.

You think you stand above them, with your record collection in your limited edition Ipod, with your International Herald Tribune in your bag, with your individualized hardships, with your exotic stamps in your passport.

Such a cliché.

It’s Ramadan and during the evening prayer you listen to the minaret’s old voices that cover the streets. You stand in alleys, peak into the Mosques, see lines of men kneeing on small mats. You tell yourself that it is special, that it is meaningful for you to see. You have no direction or meaning so you borrow it from other people. Make it your own. Fold the Muslim prayers into your life as if it was just another piece of pop culture that you could add to your collection. You take a picture and write a funny line about, post it on Facebook, have people “like” it. You are fascinated by the green laser beam that is shooting out of the giant Hassan II mosque by the ocean.

All the symbolism you find and throw around you.

In the Casablanca Media the men smoke hash in long thin wooden pipes during the evenings. You sit next to them with your mint tea, think that you are participating. You smile towards small girls who play while their fathers talk about matters you understand nothing of. They look at you and you look at them. You take a photo of them posing in their dresses.

Such a cliché.

As if a plane ticket automatically would bring you closer to understanding. As if sharing a taxi with six Moroccans that you cannot speak with would make you understand this culture, make you a participant. You travel with your white skin and music. You look at sandy mountains through old Mercedes windows while Arcade Fire sings that they don’t recognize their old friends.

You think seeing the Moroccan desert makes you different, that the silent gazing on the dusty Atlas Mountains brings you forward, that it’s enough to change landscape and listen to Arcade Fire while climbing a mountain in Morocco. As if it is different from doing the same thing on a sidewalk in Stockholm.

When you come home you will speak about new perspectives, about the old men on the streets, the sales people, the smells, the craftsmanship, the traffic, the mosques, the food, and you will show pictures of monuments and provide anecdotes from your guidebook.

The same ones you could have gotten from a Wikipedia search.

The same photos that the German tourists with socks in their sandals took.

You will speak of empty dark alleys and homeless people sleeping in street corners.

You will speak of them with great passion, about the sadness in their rugged faces, about their children and their lack of a future. But you will never mention their reaching hands that you avoided while walking past them with your new The National album.

The never ending construction of yourself.

Such a cliché.

You take the words of Win Butler and Matt Berninger. Walk the streets a final time; you feel that they speak about you, about the changing nature and melodrama of modern life. And you pass by the reaching hands on the sidewalk. Another misunderstood idealist unaware of his surroundings.

“Choose your side I’ll choose my side” Win Butler sings in “Suburban War” when you jump into the taxi and whisk away to the airport.

Such a cliché.

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