- Oh shit ! I didn't see him
- Pull over. Here he comes...
I used every chance to escape the noisy Marrakesh. Bob had his little farm outside of town, next to his grandmother’s. They shared their admiration for plants, citrus fruits and the Atlas Mountains. Bob had been a misfit since high school. He travelled around the world and lived a nomadic life, completely rejecting the Moroccan societal mould. Despite it all, he chose to build his dream in Marrakesh to be closer to his family. I admired that.
Bob introduced me to Mina, another alien. Born in a wealthy aristocratic family, Mina wanted to study yoga instead of what she was told. She clashed with her family early on, cut ties and took off to India. Later on she went on exploring South East Asia on a motorbike... for two years! Mina had lived abroad for a decade after which she decided to come back home. She settled in the Northern Atlas Mountains and built a yoga retreat centre, her lifelong dream. Another rebel who found her place in Morocco.
Mina and Bob made me consider my nomadic lifestyle. I missed my friends and family. Canada was the perfect place to live if not for its tyrannical weather. On the surface Morocco had it all. Beautiful nature, a mild climate, family, friends, business opportunities… A few years back, I tried settling there but despite leading a retired president’s life, I left on a whim. One day, I came home pissed, booked a one-way ticket and never looked back… until now.
I dropped off Mina and got stuck in traffic behind an exotic convoy. I counted no less than thirty luxury cars, Porsches being on the low-end. At the red light, a group of African men in rags surrounded the cars. One youngster approached my window and saluted me with a splendid smile. A smile that made me look into his eyes. A smile that forced empathy. That man, like millions before him, was probably collecting money for his final gamble. A life in Europe, or a one-way ticket the bottom of the Mediterranean sea. In all dignity, he wished me well and moved to the next car. Cheerful poverty is an honourable state.
The next day, I met up with Anas at the driving range. Next to us was a man that he recognized, a big shot of the McLaren Formula One team. Being a lifelong McLaren fan, Anas shied away. I asked the guy to try his driver and we made small talk. He was super friendly and told us he had a house in Marrakesh where he spent every winter. A wealthy world-class figure had chosen Morocco to settle down. Why did I leave again?
On our way out, Anas did not stop completely at the sign. A cop standing on the roundabout pulled us over.
- Salam. Driving license and car papers.
- Yes, just a sec. Is something wrong officer?
- You didn't stop at the sign
- I slowed down, I thought I stopped...
The cop examined Anas’ driving license, then added in a curious tone:
- Is Dr X. the cardiologist a family member of yours?
- Yes. He’s my uncle.
- Oh! Okay... all good.
- Thank you, sir.
- Goodbye, be careful next time.
That was it! The reason I left my luxurious life in Morocco. It was not because of the outrageous inequalities, the poverty or injustice. It was not because of discrimination based on gender, religion, social status or last name. You get used to all those things after a while. No, this was something else. Something invisible that creeps into your mind, unnoticed like a parasite. Small at first, it grows in you, drop after drop. Until one day it ends up poisoning you, controlling and strangling your every thought like a boa constrictor.
Some call it anti-terrorism prevention, others call it gossiping. The truth is no matter where you go or what you do, someone knows about it, always. You are traced from your first breath to you last shit. The gossiping goes all the way, from the cigarette dealer to the Royal palace. There is even a government official in every district whose job is to know everyone’s business. Privacy in Morocco is a common rejected concept. Something only aliens cared about. Something nobody had.
The day I noticed I was forced to make decisions based on people's opinion, I left. Most Moroccans don't have that luxury. My relationship with Morocco was intense and toxic. There were good times but to keep breathing, I had to cut it short.