Six cool things about Morocco

 As most readers of the blog know, Issandr and I spent the summer visiting and reporting from Morocco. What follows is a belated, personal and haphazard list of some cool things I discovered there. 

1. Music. Hindi Zahra, a Berber-Moroccan-French singer-songwriter. 

Hindi Zahra - Stand Up
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2. The online magazine Mithly, the first Arabic magazine by and for gay men (Click here to hear my interview with the editor).

3. Casablanca's new "culture factory"--the city's old abandoned colonial-era slaughter-house, which has been taken over by a collective of artist and cultural professionals. Although the government is dragging its feet in recognizing and funding the space, it's already amazing. 

4. The Cinematheque of Tangiers. This movie theatre--beautifully restored and lovingly run by photographer Yto Barrada--has been around from some time, and remains one of my favourite spots in the country. 

5. Abdel-latif Laabi. The Moroccan poet and 2009 Goncourt prize winner is immensely talented; his poems pull you back and forward between the lyrical and the ironic, the poetic and the mundane. 

From his collection Mon Cher Double, a poem called "Matin gris" ("Gray morning"):

Matin gris

Images marquées au fer rouge

d'un autre matin gris:

rictus d'un fauve

juché sur ta poitrine


te mettant les tripes à l'envers

insultes pleuvant

sure le sexe et la religion 

de ta mère

loque sanguinolente de ton corps

trainée, jetée dans un debarras

couche à meme le ciment

pain sec en guise d'oreiller

Nuit succédant aux nuits

plus de matin

meme gris

et nul sauveur

nul témoin

I can't translate this poem, which seems to be about someone homeless, the victim of violence--but the last lines read: "lay flat on the cement/dry bread for a pillow/night following upon nights/no more morning/not even a gray one/and no saviour/no witness." You can read Laabi's poetry in French at his own site and others. Unfortunately, he has been little translated into English. 

6. Did I mention music? This song ("Schizo Country"), by the well-known group Hoba Hoba Spirit. The video is also very cool.

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Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.