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Music When The Lights Go Out  -  Asilah, Morocco.

Music When The Lights Go Out - Asilah, Morocco.

by Dan Breen,
first published: May, 2005

approximate reading time: minutes

I'm an object of considerable curiosity, dressed as I am in a discreet black Moroccan gandora, a Russell Athletic beanie, and clapped out Adidas sandals

hey pal, doing thison an arabic typewriter so you'll have to correct the typos, do a spellcheck, etc. also this is a first draft, therefore briefand to the point. - Dan

I'm travelling with three friends, a woman judge,a theatre director, and an art expert. We've rented an apartment which looks out over the Atlantic at Asilah, a seaport town an hour's drive south of Tangier, our port of entry into Morocco. Asilah is a sleepy small town with a good fish restaurant and a spectacular casbah.

Before we quit Tangier I arranged to pick up some hash from the wheelchaired dealer with two surviving fingers on his right hand who hangs out in front of Cafe Les Negociants. I leave my pals to the joys of Asilah and head towards the bus station where I soon discover, contrary to the helpful timetable on the wall, that I've missed the last bus to Tangier. A tourist hustler points me in the direction of a white van nestling in the shade of a dusty old tree. I look inside and see maybe fifteen peasants sitting patiently and silently in the interior darkness; waiting to go to Tangier. I give the brusque burly driver 10 Dirhams and he clears a seat for me in the second row of wooden benches bolted down to the van's floor. When crammed full of humanity, twenty minutes later, the van chugs reluctantly into life and we're off.

I'm an object of considerable curiosity, dressed as I am in a discreet black Moroccan gandora, a Russell Athletic beanie, and clapped out Adidas sandals. We're in Tangier in no time at all, dropped off closer to the city centre than any commercial bus or grand taxi (communal Mercedes taxis which are one of the best ways of going around Morocco) I've ever been in.

I walk west down Boulevard and take a left onto the narrow backstreet which brings me to Cafe Les Negociants. It's getting dark now and Boulevard streetlife is fast and frantic. Rent boys, petty thieves, whores, habitues of the coffee shops, adolescent boys with sharp fresh haircuts, tourist hustlers, and ordinary decent folks out for a dusk stroll.

My wheelchair buddy is waiting, guarded by a fellow who tells me he did time in Wormwood Scrubs prison for fraud. I don't linger; this is a streetcorner transaction. I pick up some fancy patisseries at Patisserie Italienne and check a few junkie cafes for my pal Nou who is nowhere to be seen on this trip. Last time he was nowhere to be seen and not answering his e-mails, he was doing 9 months. I hope not.

An hour later a grand taxi drops me off five minutes walk from the Asilah apartment where my pals are somewhat taken aback by my swift return. Soon we are dining on fresh tuna salad. Later that night I am stoned and repeatedly playing Music When The Lights Go Out by The Libertines, amazed at how good Pete Doherty can be. When I listen to some of the other tracks on that Libertines' album, I note how bad Carl Barrat's songs are and what a plodding production job Mick Jones did. I guess The Libertines wanted to sound like The Clash but Jones ended up making them sound like The Boomtown Rats.

And later that night I'm out alone after midnight walking the dark back streets of Asilah where I meet Mohammed, about 17, who walks back towards the apartment building with be before bidding me goodnight.



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