Sunday, March 11, 2007

Travel writing about Morocco - Part 16

Adam Karlin writes for the Arizona Star and for Lonely Planet, so you would imagine that few travel experiences would really blow him away - maybe, until while in Morocco on a recent trip. Although one of the younger travel writers we have featured, he writes well. But what is interesting here is his experience.He and his girlfriend were staying in the little village of Tamnougalt, at the Chez Yacob hotel. But let him pick up the story...
We had tagine and couscous for dinner (in Morocco, you always have tagine and couscous for dinner), and as night fell, I heard drums pounding off the narrow village streets. The noise came from just outside our hotel: a circle of men and village boys, some black, some Arab, some with roots as Jewish as pastrami on rye. They motioned us over, and we slurped tea while they joked in the muddy Moroccan pidgin of French, Berber and Arabic (my little French, for the record, served me very well in Morocco). A kid squatted next to me.
"Big movie star," a man said, smiling.
I smiled back, figuring they were joking.
"Brad Pitt," he said. Other boys rolled their eyes, like they'd heard this story a thousand times. Then one of the hotel managers spoke in fluent English.
"No, really!" he exclaimed. "He has just been in a movie with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. 'Babel'!" The boy nodded excitedly, and now his friends followed suit, eager to claim some shared fame.
At the time, I dismissed the story as hyperbole. About a month later, though, while watching a DVD of "Babel," my jaw dropped as Boubker Ait El Caid — the boy in the drum circle — shot Cate Blanchett in the shoulder and basically upstaged a cast of A-listers with his impassioned admission of guilt.
But on my birthday, he and the hotel manager asked me to trade an American tune for their Berber ones. I hummed a few bars but got cut off.
"Is that Bryan Adams?"
"We like Bryan Adams."
Technically, Adams is Canadian, but they were already halfway into "Summer of '69." That was how I turned 26: watching the stars enflame the African sky in a mud castle, surrounded by friendly Moroccans singing Western pop songs. El Caid was there, but there was little babble that night; our inability to speak each other's languages warmed a shared affection, the connection that grows when two travelers' curiosity and one village's hospitality come face to face.

Earlier Travel Writing stories:

Travel Writing Fifteen.
Travel Writing Fourteen.
Travel Writing Thirteen.
Travel Writing Twelve.
Travel Writing Eleven.
Travel Writing Ten.
Travel Writing Nine
Travel writing eight
Travel writing Seven
Travel Writing Six
Travel Writing Five
Travel Writing Four
Travel Writing Three
Travel Writing Two
Travel Writing One


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