Saturday, January 1, 2011

Top 10s of 2010

My goal with this thing has always been to produce substantive content, or to keep my mouth shut; an exercise in restraining my own narcissism. Thus the lack of posts in the past few months. I've been back in the United States and, despite a few blips in the flat line, not a whole lot has been going on. If there has been any constant over the past few months, however (aside from boredom), it would be the consumption of media.

So, as I have done on other occasions, the following are my favorite things from over the past year:


This was an incredible year for music, so this list was difficult to put together, and a separate Honorable Mentions list would be almost as good. 'Brothers' and 'The Suburbs' need to be on the list, but both are overshadowed by superior work in each band's previous releases. Plastic Beach, Crystal Castles, ArchAndroid, Wake Up!, Swim, The Bells Sketch EP, Age of Adz, Odd Blood, Everything in Between, Cosmogramma, Treats... the list goes on. They all deserve a spot.

My number one pick actually surprised me. It would have gone to Kanye, but 'Go' is such a beautiful thing, I think it will end up sticking with me longer than a monolithic pop opera like MBDTF. And I still haven't decided if Joanna Newsom is really the most compelling female vocalist in the game, or if I'm just in love with her (either way, she's in).

  1. Jonsi - Go
  2. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
  3. The National - High Violet
  4. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
  5. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty
  6. The Tallest Man on Earth - Wild Hunt
  7. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
  8. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
  9. Spoon - Transference
  10. The Roots - How I Got Over


This was easy. It's pretty much just the top 10 most played on my [nerdy not-iTunes music player]. Culled of the embarrassing shit, of course. I swear I don't like Rhianna that much.

  1. Jonsi - Kolnidur
  2. Kanye West (ft. Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz) - Power (Remix)
  3. Kanye West (ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Nikki Minaj) - Monster
  4. Janelle Monae - Cold War
  5. John Legend and The Roots - Hard Times
  6. Spoon - Written in Reverse
  7. LCD Soundsystem - Drunk Girls
  8. Cee Lo Green - Fuck You
  9. Yeasayer - O.N.E.
  10. The Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)


Not a great year for film. 'The Fighter' serves as a good example. It is an excellent film that will almost certainly start winning awards very shortly... and received ZERO help from the studio that produced it until after it started receiving critical acclaim. There's simply not a lot of money for serious, artistic movie-making - not while most Americans just want to watch Narnia and the next Fockers installment. Regardless, there were definitely some flicks worthy of everyone's time.

Two of these, I feel, didn't get the attention that they deserved upon release: Carlos - a 5 1/2 hour monster of a movie that is boring for exactly zero seconds, and Restrepo - a crushing documentary about an Army infantry unit in Afghanistan. See them.

  1. Carlos
  2. True Grit
  3. Winter's Bone
  4. Restrepo
  5. A Profit
  6. Toy Story 3
  7. The Social Network
  8. The American
  9. The Kids Are Alright
  10. 127 Hours

Friday, July 16, 2010

What I Won't Miss

This is an email from a friend who visited for a little over a week. Keep in mind that Casablanca is the most liberal and progressive city in one of the Muslim World's most liberal and progressive countries. This starts minutes after we parted company at a train station:

Sooo....for the vais t'en raconter.

Imagine me...

*hugs in front of gare* [exit you]

[enter me...seule]

Buys tickets, parks self near bench an starts reading [book] alone. Doesn't look up but remarks that several groups of young men walk past and slow down while walking [Moroccan man code for "look up, I think you're interesting but have no non-creepy way of bothering you at 5:30 in the morning].

Me: Fuck *mumble*

Gets on train, starts to sleep...bothered by a group of two men who routinely pass in the walk way and scream when they get to my seat (to freak me out?... it works)

[Enter other moroccan guy, my ageish] Offers to sit next to me. I refuse (on principle because who knows, he could be friends with the screamers). He takes my bag and guides me to sit with his friends, who include some clueless backpacker Italian guy. I fall asleep, but stay alert... Italian refers to me as a "bella regazza" and continues speaking to one of the moroccans in Italian about how cute i am and how alone i must feel. I "wake up". One moroccan goes into a lengthy discussion about how dumb I am to travel alone, and how i should have brought my sister or my father with me...I say i'm meeting them later...and that my husband i going to meet me in fez.

He says i'm a "menteuse" because it's not possible that I'm married with two kids as I claim. I show a photo, he disputes it...tells me I should get off at the next stop chez lui and cancel my flight. I refuse. He gets angry but eventually apologizes and welcomes me chez lui with my children when I can. Also tells me that he noticed me in the gare, and that when moroccans see a girl like me (no joke) they want to do something bad to me. Because I'm alone, and female and vulnerable. Which i guess is at least honest but also begs the question: "What the FUCK?"

[exit them] [enter women across the aisle, who, I just noticed is staring at me, without looking away...for the next two hours].

I exit the train, exhausted/freaked further bothered by random ass motherfuckers at the airport...

I'm done with this country.

I've riffed on it before, but women get treated like shit in Morocco. And now that I've left the country, I can expand: Until the hammer blows of modernity can smash away the fringes of theological psychosis (as has been done to Christianity and Judaism), I would not recommend a solo visit for any woman to ANY non-secular Islamic country. It's certainly do-able, and there's a lot to learn, but you should not expect anyone you meet to have an appreciation for your worth as a human being. If that would bother you, don't come alone. [Note: The more conservative, the worse it gets. Example. Example.Example.Example.]

On a lighter note; my friend also got a shitload of creepy Couchsurfing solicitations.

For anyone unfamiliar with it; is essentially a utilitarian Facebook for backpackers. People set up profiles, list whether or not they have a spare couch, and travelers come through and sleep on it. It's a distasteful concept to many (particularly those with hang-ups about privacy and safety). But to others - the people who understand what backpackers are - it's an incredible resource. The expense of accommodation and the apprehension about meeting worthwhile people are two of the most daunting hurtles of any extended journey. Couchsurfing solves both.

I've always been a fan, but I do have a suggestion if anyone associated with the site's management happens to read this:

Get rid of the Creeper Bar.

Whenever you log into your homepage, the system will display a list of people who have recently logged in from a close-by IP address. So... a list of locations and login times linked to the IP-addresses of various travelers. I never thought much of it before now. No one has ever contacted me that way (in 10 months... not a single one). The system is set up so that if you need something - directions, a drink, a couch - you can search for people offering those things and ask them directly. So who would write to a traveler out of the blue and ask for something that clearly wasn't on offer?

Moroccan dudes, apparently.

Aforementioned friend also received a number of correspondences during her stay:

Good evening
I hope your trip went well, and you spend the good times in Morocco, well I would be happy among us t'acceuillir Essaouira on the town or Jimmy hadrix a resident for several years the city or that it y'avais of a hippy then. I hope that my proposal interests you and that it could do that.

First of all, I'm really happy to welcome you in Morocco. You definitely choose a country well known for its hospitality. A country with a diversity of landscapes, cultures and traditions, a warm weather and a uncommon ambient. So I introduce myself, My name is Hicham. I'm originally from Rabat the capital of Morocco I'm learning Hotel management. rabat is a sunny city andwith a lot of parties. I invite you to to live unforgetable moments.To visit the medina, and to enjoy together in a cafe.

*See you later

good morning
it's tarik from italy and i m in long visit to rabat my origine city i would like to have nice talk with you and knowing many friends from all the world
so don't hesit to call me at this number 065440**** if you are in rabat
and then take care

hi [Name] i wish u a good day from casablanca and i dont work this times if u wanna we can make a coffe oe beer around....see yup ....reply my plz

Dear [Name],
I hope you are doing well,
I am Said from Morocco ,it will be pleasure for me to know u more
take care

hi!i am a couchsurfer from casablanca,i am registred on this website to carry my dream to visit all the 4 corners of the world and meet a lot of people!!i know that you are here in morocco so if you want we can meet for a drink or a cooffe and even host you coz my couch is available,an after making knowledge i could visit you in your country.
best wishes.

Hey [Name]

Firstly you are welcome to your second country Morocco !!

Im Zuhair from Casablanca , i see that you are in Casablanca also now , so if you wanna go to a place where you can have a view of the whole Casablaca , let me know i will be pleased to do that , im sure you will love it as all my couchsurfing friends .plz just let me know befor by sending a message , in case im not free or has something to do ok ...

how are u hope doinf fine i saw ur profil i try to write to you somme line hope find u well . i live in city of pink calling kela mgouna just 100 km from ouarzazate. i say if you like to discover this perdise welcome

how are you I live in Ouarzazate that is a city in southern Morocco that is also called the gate of the desert, and the chief town of the province of the same name. Located at the meeting of the valleys of the Wadi Wadi Ouarzazate and Dades (from the High Atlas) that make up the Draa river downstream of their confluence, it is the hub of a vast region of southern Morocco . Ouarzazate refers to both the foothills south of the High Atlas and the nearby desert.

if you have a program to visit this city contact me at 0 6 77 15 ****
well come home

welcome in Rabat

And my personal favorite (points for brevity and directness)...


Needless to say, 'opinionated' would be a vast understatement for me on this subject. I'll write more about it later because I've got about 10 months worth of vitriol to get out.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


So, I'm going home in a couple of weeks. But before I bore everyone with that...

Credit to my friend Jeff for this. Yeah; website that sells lion meat: Also Poussin, Black Bear (!), Antelope and Camel. I can't imagine they ship to Morocco, but needless to say, I will be dropping the folks at Czimer's a line once I get home.

So besides definitely eating some lion (check out the Yelp reviews -- righteous indignation is by far the funniest projected emotion), I will be taking the following route home:

Leaving late July. So if you live on or around any of the red dots, let me know. Drinks.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Parting Shots

I had a class start-date pushed back and a college roommate flying in for a visit, so I helped myself to an extended vacation this week. Boring story short: Went to Fez on Wednesday afternoon, randomly bumped into two of the Brits I met climbing Toubkal, shared some shisha and managed to insert myself (and Samantha) into their plans to visit a big waterfall.

So, I wound up spending two nights at Ouzoud Falls just NE of Marrakesh (cheapest hostel I've found in the country thus far, btw; ~$2.00/night). Biggest waterfall in the country and home to a large population of Barbary Apes who, having been fed by local Moroccans over the past decade or so, were extremely comfortable around us. As evidence:

And here's the whole album:

In other news, I'm busily finalizing my schedule for my return to the States. Going to be hectic, but interesting, I think. As of now, it's looking like Casa -> JFK -> ATL -> BWI -> O'Hare -> PDX. If anyone is in any of those neighborhoods in late-July/early-Aug and wants to get a drink, let me know.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I love soccer

Not really. Soccer is awful. If I wanted to see a bunch of effete metrosexuals running around, throwing tantrums, weeping and groping each other... well, yeah, I’d watch soccer. I saw some of the USA v. Slovenia game earlier today, and the only thing more embarrassing than the fact we tied is that my country participates in this histrionic nonsense at all. "But they came back from a 2 - 0 deficit!" Slovenia has a population of 2 million. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure that makes their World Cup team about 8% of the workforce.

Anyway, one of their guys was running toward the goal when one of ours stole the ball, so the Slovenian hurled himself to the ground, grasping at his ankle like his foot were dangling from his leg by tendons and started crying. So play stopped and his team got the ball.

If I were in charge of soccer, I would implement the following rule changes to make it less awful:

  1. No crying. Crying = red card.
  2. No post-goal celebrating. This rule can be temporary, until the culture of spazzing out like some emotionally-troubled tween has been purged from the soccer community. It’s a goal, not the cure for cancer – and it’s what you’re paid to do.
  3. No make-up. And players are required to have first and last names. I don’t know who the fuck “Ronaldo” is, but if he’s that transvestite with all the eyeliner, I’m not impressed.
  4. New position. One man on each team will assume the title of “striker” (which was misapplied before – the other guys are called ‘forwards’). Like goalies, strikers will abide by a separate rule set. Strikers will not be allowed to touch the ball, and if they do, they’re out for 5 minutes (regular players can, of course, eject the strikers by drilling them with the ball). Strikers are, however, allowed to tackle people. Same rules as rugby; must have the ball, at least one foot on the ground, no headshots.
  5. One fewer defender.
  6. Penalty kicks are awesome. Any infraction whatsoever within the goal box will result in a penalty kick.
  7. Goalies are also allowed to tackle people.
  8. New foul rules. If you have the ball, you’re fair game. Any attack by another player that can reasonably be assumed was directed at the ball is legal. This is a good idea because dangerous slide-tackles are awesome and would become commonplace. Furthermore, play does not stop for injuries. Guys who want to roll around on the group weeping are welcome to, but the game will continue.
  9. If you spread your arms open really wide and look confused or exasperated with something the referee says, the referee is allowed to punch you in the face.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Me > Nature

Made it to the top of Toubkal this time (see: previous failure). Apparently it’s easier to ascend things when they aren’t covered in ice. So, yeah; I’m pretty pleased.

The second day was exhausting – almost 4 hours straight up from the refuge, and then another 8 spent in various stages of semi-controlled falling back to the base. I made it back to Casablanca late that night and needed to brace myself against the handrails to make it up the stairs to my apartment. My knees feel like they were on the wrong side of a mobster gambling debt. Despite all that, I’d chalk this one up as a resounding success.

I ended up going with two backpackers I met on Saturday. Anthony was going to come, but anorexic girls aren’t allowed on the trail (some kind of liability thing). The backpackers – Mike and Bryan - were both in good shape though and we managed to harass one another into making fairly good time up the mountain. So aside from a lot of exhausted/awe-struck cursing, there wasn’t a whole lot of drama.

Actually... The mountain did try to murder us once. We were traversing a scree (loose rocks) field on the way down from the summit and two big rocks broke off a cliff above us. Pretty horrific timing to say the least, as Mike, Andy (a British guy we met) and I were all directly below them. One of the rocks ricocheted off to the side, but the second – a little smaller than a beach ball – came right for us. Seeing a rock that probably weighed 150 pounds bouncing six feet in the air and moving faster than a car barrelling down at you is disconcerting to say the least. Andy handled it best, in exceptionally English fashion:

“Heads up, lads.”

It was difficult to judge the rock’s path, so we were all stuck, standing in place, waiting for the last minute to gauge whether evasive action was necessary. Luckily, it bounced about four feet wide of Andy’s chest and fell harmlessly down a cliff.

So you had your shot, Nature. Had your shot and you missed.

Seasonal Differences

I was going through my photos from my two trips up Toubkal, and a few of them are taken from similar angles. Kinda neat to see how much the landscape changes between April and June. (Full albums are on Facebook).

Looking down the valley from the refuge:

The Berber village at the trailhead:

The last valley before the refuge:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Round Two

A few months back my buddy Jeff and I took a stab at summiting a little hill called J'bel Toubkal. We failed. Since I won't be going to Palestine, I have all of next week off to poke around in Morocco/Spain. Time for a rematch.

I'll be heading up with three other guys, taking roughly the same approach as before (except, ideally, without screwing up the route). The weather should be a bit more agreeable this time around, so I'll be able to swap out the winter jacket and extra layers for a [considerably] lighter tube of sunscreen.

Unfortunately, I think the snow will be gone as well, so it will be a little less epic. Oh well. Good to get out of Casa.

If any of y'all need to get ahold of me, hit the FB or email.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I've got a lot of downtime in the evenings here. As of last month, a lot of that was filled watching old episodes of Hell's Kitchen. Hell's Kitchen is a television show about a guy named Gordon who cooks delicious food and helps teach other people to do the same. This is accomplished with a lot of yelling. Sensing in Ramsay a kindred instructional spirit, the show inspired me to learn how to cook. This is Chef Ramsay with an animal he's about 90 seconds from eating. -->

Part of my cooking philosophy is that there exists a culinary trifecta - booze, meat, explosions
- which, if satisfied, renders positive results regardless of the chef's skill, experience, intelligence or personal hygiene. Why booze, meat and explosions? Stupid question, but I will explain anyway:

Booze: I've read quite a bit that the right beer/wine/spirit will compliment a dish. The only surprising thing there is that anyone would go through the effort of writing it. "Compliments" means "makes better". So, yeah... no shit. The only thing I would like to point out here is that anyone who says that the quality of a cooking wine doesn't matter isn't using enough of it.

Meat: Because this is America. (And by "this" I mean "the internet" which, like the moon, is owned by America). Do you know what kinds of people don't eat meat? North Koreans.

North Koreans are, on average, six inches shorter than South Koreans (who are also pretty short). The North Koreans say it's because they are ethnically purer than South Koreans (which is racist). But it's actually because they're a bunch of retards who don't get enough protein.

In conclusion, Americans eat meat and racist midgets don't.

Explosions: This is so obvious it borders on intuition and is difficult to articulate an explanation for. Why does 2 + 2 = 4? It just does. The beauty here is that explosions can be integrally related to booze (which explodes). Or even meat. It is widely acknowledged that animals who were killed by explosions taste better than those who weren't.

Of course, if there were a way to integrate gratuitous female nudity into this equation, I would. But for now, it remains a trifecta. ...Also, I'm not sure quadfecta is a word. I'm working on it.

So, here's the recipe for what I ate yesterday:

Sangria, Pizza and Spicy Fruit Desert

Ingredients (primary)

  • 1.5 pounds of ground beef (approximately a baby's head size.
  • Two fists-full of Mozzarella cheese
  • 2 bottles of the shittiest red wine you can buy or shoplift
  • 1 bottle of rum (dark and spicy are ideal, but when isn't it? -- take what you can get)
These ingredients are "primary" because if all else fails you can just throw them all in a saucepan, add fire and eat.

Ingredients (secondary)
Quantities not noted because a) I don't know and b) it doesn't matter

  • Flour
  • Yeast
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Tomatoes
  • Egg
  • Onions
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Red peppers
  • Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Sprite
  • Basil
  • Cloves
  • Whatever fruit and berries you can still afford after all the alcohol and meat
  • Olive oil
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Apple juice
  • Black pepper
  • 4 different kinds of hot sauce (to pour all over the pizza)
  • Probably some other stuff, but whatever you've got on hand will probably work

Serves 1


1. First of all, you bought way too much wine for one pitcher of Sangria. Drink like half of one of the bottles.

2. Sangria was invented by the Spanish as a quick, effective delivery vehicle for cheap red wine. The recipe therefore, is necessarily cheap and simple. You pile as much sliced fruit and berries into a large pitcher as you can and then fill it with wine. The juice from the fruit will slowly diffuse into the alcohol and make it delicious.

3. Keep the pitcher in the fridge for a couple of hours or while you do the rest of the prep. When you serve it, top up the rest of the pitcher with Sprite to make it bubbly.

4. Sangria done.

5. Drink continuously for the duration of cooking.

6. Dough is pretty easy. Just throw a bunch of flower, yeast, an egg, some water and a dash of milk into a bowl. Mash it all together until it starts to look like dough. I don't know. Making dough is boring. Watch this fruitloop do it.

7. Put the dough in a pan and put a bunch of mashed up tomatoes and hotsauce all over it.

8. Then fire up all the meat, onions and red peppers in a pan until they're a little bit cooked. More hotsauce. Then put that on top of the dough too.

9. Finally, tear up the cheese and sprinkle it all over the place. More cheese = better. Mozzarella is what Zeus ate.

10. Throw it into the oven. Turn the oven on. I forget to do that sometimes.

Pizza done.

11. Eat pizza, finish sangria. It's important to be over the legal limit for the next part.

12. Skin, core and half the apples and pears. This is hard when you are drunk, so think of it like a field sobriety test. Don't fuck it up or you get stabbed in the hand.

13. Spread an even layer of sugar over the bottom of a non-stick pan. Turn on the fire part underneath it and wait for the sugar to melt. (Yeah, sugar melts into a light-brown liquid when it gets hot. I didn't really know that.)

14. Add a bunch of butter once the sugar melts. Then throw in a bunch of cloves, black pepper and the cinnamon sticks. My roommate ate one of the cinnamon sticks and informed me that it was gross, so don't do that. Then put in the fruit.

15. After like 30 seconds, the goopey shit at the bottom will start to get really thick. That's when you pour in a bunch of rum. Like 4 or 5 shots worth. Some people will tell you that that's too much, but... well, they're wrong. Quantity of rum => amount of fire. So I don't really know what the hell they're talking about.

16. Then kinda tip the pan into the fire. Or stick your hands in there with a lighter. I don't care, I'm not your mom. The alcohol should explode (trifecta attained). Then flick around the pan, preferably where a girl can see you because this part makes you look awesome. Don't spill fire on yourself.

17. Then pour some apple juice on it so it's not so sludgey.

18. Eat.

This would be good with ice cream. But I never remember to get ice cream, so I just ate it plain. Probably the most delicious thing ever. I might put it on pancakes sometimes.

I'll try to make this a running thing. Hopefully with a different type of dead animal, variety of liquor and magnitude of explosion each time. I even made a new subject tag! Next up; Jack Daniel's chicken. Side of white phosphorus.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Primavera Write-Up

"My friend and I are going to a festival in Barcelona next month. You should come!” she said.

“Barcelona you say? Umm... Who’s playing? And when is it?”

“Last weekend in May. And tons of people -- Wilco, Buena Vista Social Club, Spoon, Major Lazer – you should look it up online.”

I don’t recall my exact physical reaction, but I probably made my thinking face (sort of a combination of stroke victim and child-staring-at-television). Hipster music festival, early-summer Mediterranean coast, Barcelona – that shit is a Tier-1 Good Idea (and it certainly didn’t hurt that the girl asking was super pretty). I was making my thinking face because saying ‘maybe’ to something like that is fucking weak.

“Yeah, fuck it. That sounds awesome,” I said, snapping out of my thinking face.

And that was that. The festival itself (link here) was this weekend and, needless to say, it was awesome. Here are a few of the highlights, written smart-assedly in award show format:

Best Performance from a Band I’d Never Heard Of
Florence and the Machine
When she first took the stage I thought she was going to be annoying because she had bright red hair and was dressed like a gay angel. But she wasn’t annoying at all. She was awesome. I have a soft spot in my heart for vocalists who can plug their microphones into an effects pedal and make it work. Her band was awesome too. One word: Rockharp.

For Totally Playing the Shit out of Veckatimest
Grizzly Bear

Because that’s the one they sold at Starbucks.

Drummer Who Most Obviously Did Not Decorate His Own Instrument
This guy...


Most Rapey
Major Lazer

I’m all for exuberant stage shows, but when you stop listening to the music and have to ask yourself “who is that girl and why is he doing that to her?” they might have gone a little overboard.

Most Unexpectedly Metal

I don’t know if the folks who make Jeff Tweedy’s flannel shirts were informed, but he is basically in a metal band. What’s the last thing you expect during a live rendition of ‘Impossible Germany’? Alien attack, probably. But closely following that would have to be the explosive aneurisms of awesome that the Wilco drummer and guitarist seemed to suffer at corresponding intervals.

Best Rack
Black Francis of The Pixies

<-- Nice.

Most Adorable Frontman
Carl Newman of The New Pornographers

Happy ginger with a funny little Canadian lisp chatting up the crowd between songs. Super precious.

Best Dressed
Spanish Hipsters

<--- How are this guys’ shorts even staying on? This award was clinched when my friend said aloud, “all we need now is a guy wearing one of those Velvet Underground t-shirts” and then like five seconds later, seemingly magicked into existence by the utterance, a guy walks past rocking the Andy Warhol banana. It was amazing. Spain doesn’t even have an Urban Outfitters.

Best Set

Spoon rocks pretty hard.

Overall Winner

Best weekend ever.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Je ne sais pas

So as of last week, I was all set to move to Hebron. Departure date was set, accomodation was sorted, plane ticket was booked. But now... not. I'll spare you all the boring written details and try to boil it down into an allegorical video presentation.

So basically, Hebron has moved back into the 'maybe' catagory of future plans. Still well-ahead of backpacking through Pakistan, but still far from the certainty that it was a short time ago. Exceptionally disappointing if it doesn't work out, but I can't imagine my parents will be displeased. And hey... extra week of vacation.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Some kind of insane, genocidal purge..."

“It’s like a fucking Twilight Zone episode.”

“A plague or something...”

“Some kind of insane, genocidal purge...”

John and I stood at the edge of the beach; swim trunks and t-shirts, a football tucked under my arm. A large crowd occupied the waterfront; sunbathers, footballers, some walking hand-in-hand, some staring. Two hundred or so. ...All men. Every last one of them.


I’m making it a point to write this carefully. One of my objectives is to avoid causing offense unnecessarily. So, if anything here does cause offense – I probably meant it to.

I’ve met a lot of interesting people since arriving here in Morocco. The experiences of the women, however, as related to me, have been the most interesting. The women I know best are here to work – usually on contracts ranging from 1-3 years. Teachers, mothers, artists, NGO workers. Some of them are even diplomats working in Casablanca as representatives of major Western powers; well-traveled, and specifically trained to be culturally sensitive and highly tolerant. Of the tourists, single females choosing to travel alone through North Africa are a particularly tough, brave and independent breed.

These should serve as the preface of my post. Some were related to me second-hand, but I have absolute faith in the veracity of each.

  • A female friend of ours came to visit Casablanca for 2 nights. Over the course of a single day, she was assaulted twice in broad daylight in neighbourhoods I frequent – once in front of a group of male onlookers. Nothing similar has happened to me in 8 months.
  • I have spoken with four female students who are not allowed to use Facebook, by order of either their fathers or boyfriends. Two of them are also forbidden from using email.
  • An Australian couchsurfer missed her train because the taxi driver refused to deliver her – insisting that they “get lunch” first.
  • Our apartment is a fairly social one. The ratio of Moroccan male to female visitors, however, is probably around 10:1. A vast majority of Moroccan girls and women we know are A) Not allowed in men’s apartments, B) Not allowed to socialize with unmarried men, C) Not allowed out of their homes after 8 or 9pm, D) Must check-in frequently if not at home or in a pre-determined location.
  • I have removed two men from my Facebook list because they were soliciting my female friends – apparently based on the “quality” of their profile pictures – for attention/companionship.
  • A friend of mine who works at an NGO has frequent difficulty walking 3 blocks from her apartment to her office. She often ends up running into work.
  • Police will stop you on the street if you are walking with a woman they believe is Muslim. (This may be profiling, rooted in an attempt to solicit a bribe – but it is also well-fitted to a trend).
  • Several female travelers who have left my company to explore other cities have been subjected to aggressive and unrelenting pressure for marriage or sex from Moroccan men who had volunteered, ostensibly, to accompany them for safety purposes.
  • Two female diplomats who have lived in this country for the last 2 years have a combined total of zero numbers from Moroccan men in their phones. They bemoan and regret the fact, but will flatly ignore or deflect public conversations with domestic nationals.
  • I have lost count of the complaints that have been relayed to me of marriage proposals, sexual propositions, catcalls, passes and gropes from Moroccan men directed at foreign women.
  • I have seen women being assaulted on the street, amongst a group of men, with more men watching. Twice. When men fight on the streets, others typically intervene.
  • On days when the local soccer teams play, women do not leave their homes in our neighbourhood (near the stadium) out of fear of the groups of men and boys that wander the streets before and after the match.
  • There are (many) public cafes in which women are explicitly disallowed. Public cafes that do allow women tend not to have them.
  • This weekend, I walked a pair of female friends to the big mosque on the waterfront. I left them there to walk a mile along the waterfront to a popular beach. Alone. 5 minutes after I left, they were being followed by a group of men. 5 minutes after that, one of them was bleeding. 5 minutes after that, they were in a police station...

My perspective has evolved to the point where I now feel neglecting to escort a female friend from one point of the city to another is tantamount to reckless endangerment. I’d sooner drunk-drive a forklift through my kid’s playground than let anyone I cared about walk through the downtown area alone at night.

The bullet points above are in no way meant to be a blanket condemnation of all men in Morocco. I have met a number of Moroccan men (and women) who are better people than I can claim to be. But simply put; women are second-class citizens in Morocco. This is further substantiated by the litany of other statistics on gender equity within the country (see: literacy, higher education, healthcare, employment, political office and violence).

Women do not have the same freedoms or opportunities as men. Most troubling is the fact that Moroccan laws appear to be far less restrictive than social convention.

In one of my classes, we were doing an exercise on unreal conditionals (“if ____, then ____”). One of the exercises was to express what each student would do if they were a member of the opposite sex. Among the responses from women (aged 17-30):

“If I were a man, I would go out with my friends every night.”

“If I were a man, I would get a promotion at my job.”

“If I were a man, I would be safe at night.”

One of the men in the class joked, “If I were a woman, I would kill myself.”

Unwillingness to acknowledge a problem (along with some sickening hypocrisy) is seemingly endemic amongst men here. “Women in Morocco are free to do whatever they want,” is something I have heard repeatedly. This is often suffixed with “no, I wouldn’t let my sister see a male friend at night” or “no, I wouldn’t date a woman who danced at nightclubs”.

I don’t want to get into the causes for it all in this particular forum. Hell, I have developed a veritable fusilade of attacks for it over the past 8 months... unfortunately, I’m still in a place where they could get me in trouble. But here’s a hint: I’ve been to poor, uneducated countries before. I’ve seen ancient, tribal practices integrated into modern, gradually-liberalizing societies...

I have seen nowhere else on Earth where the socially-institutionalized mistreatment of women is worse than here. It is nauseating, and I’m not going to miss it when I’m gone.