Anas, Latifa, and I arrived in Marrakesh this afternoon. At the bus station Latifa took a taxi to her family’s place, and Anas and I took a separate taxi back to his apartment. There I met his sister, Jihane. She spent the past week with her aunt in northern Morocco, and she finally returned today. She’s a very talkative girl who speaks English quite well, and she quickly warmed up to me. She doesn’t seem like the type who would take long to warm up to anyone though.
Meanwhile, Anas informed everyone about Latifa. I explained that there was nothing between us, but Sarah, especially, began to tease me about her. She enlisted Jihane’s help to explain to me what kind of girl Latifa is.
“Girls here just want money,” Jihane opined. “All they care is that you have dollars.”
“What about you?” Tired of trying to make them understand that there was nothing going on, I decided to humor her.
“I’m the same!” she declared, much to my surprise. “Sarah, too! We want a man with money.”
The unemotional confession was somehow disheartening.
Anas and I agreed to check out a club later tonight. I wanted to see what kind of club scene there is here in Marrakesh. First we would meet Latifa in Jama al-Fna.
Latifa was upset with us for taking too long to come. Now she had to stay with her family and couldn’t hang out with us. It was just as well. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with her. I didn’t feel that she was being genuine. Then she pulled a surprise on me: Her mother and sister were coming to the square, and she wanted me to meet them. I barely knew the girl, and she wanted me to meet her family. I remained outwardly calm at this piece of news though alarm bells were going off in my head. I realized then that I need to be very careful here. This culture is foreign to me, and it would be too easy for me to find myself trapped.
Anas and I waited while Latifa disappeared into the crowd to find her family. Anas, too, was alarmed at this development, and he did little to allay my apprehension. I assured him that it would be alright. She’s leaving tomorrow morning to return to Casablanca, I reminded him. There’s no way she’s planning a future for us.
Latifa emerged from the crowd with her sisters, mother, and a brother in tow. I said salaam to them and talked for a bit. Their English was limited so our conversation was thankfully brief. As I eyed Latifa’s family, I got the troubling impression that they were sizing me up as a potential suitor for her, but I admit it could have all been in my head. Nonetheless, I was glad to see them leave.
Anas and I killed some time at a cafe in Jama al-Fna. We sat on the second floor from where we had a magnificent view of the square. Unlike Casablanca, Marrakesh retains a rough-around-the-edges feel, which makes it so delightful to explore. Jama al-Fna is the epicenter of Marrakesh, and it beats with a vibrant pulse. The whole square is aglow in a soft orange light. People mill about. Motorcycles, horse carriages, and donkey carts weave through the crowd. A constant drum beat accompanied by a wailing singer — a type of music called ginawa — can be heard above the clatter of the traffic. The rising white smoke enhances the mystical quality of the place.
Anas and I went to a posh night club later tonight. The club is part of a casino. It was very expensive to get in, and refreshments were also tremendously expensive at 100 Dirhams for a glass of soda. Anas and I danced for a bit, but I began to lose interest. It’s really not fun to go stag to a club, especially if you don’t drink. We started to take some pictures, but one of the security guards stopped us and pulled us aside. He demanded that we show him the pictures we took. I obliged, and he ordered that I delete the ones that showed anyone else’s face. I assume they’re very uptight about the security and privacy of their patrons and staff. This incident reminded me of the dichotomy that exists here. As progressive and Western-leaning as Morocco appears in many ways, it must still wrestle with its conservative, Islamic identity.
Anas and I left soon afterwards and found a taxi to take us home.