Friday, May 21, 2010

Thirsty tourists on a beer run

A little Moroccan story # 1

Morocco is an Islamic country and since Islam forbids alcohol, it’s available only in some bars , restaurants and supermarkets, aimed mostly at tourists or fallen Muslims with weak character.

It was a particularly hot June back when me and Ylle were visting Fes, so we decided to go to a supermarket to get some cold beers. Fes has only two big supermarkets, everything else are just small vendor booths on the streets. These booths sell only the very essential stuff like basic groceries and other household supplies. Definitely NO alcohol. We thought we would walk a little and we asked Nabil  (the riad's manager) for directions. „Yes, yes, the supermarket is very close“ he said, „Just start walking here, cross the first intersection, few minutes later you cross another and then yet another, turn right after the intersection with a sharp looking statues in the middle, walk a bit more and there you go“. OK, seemed easy enough. In reality it was about an hour of walking in the scorching heat, we geniuses also forgot to take water with us. And those intersections were like kilometers apart, not few minutes! But we were determined to see it to the end and so we toughed it out. Later it turned out that Nabil was giving directions and estimated time as a scooter driver, not as a pedestrian. I can very well believe that it would take him on the scooter only 10 minutes, instead of an hour that we walked. 

Finally we got to the supermarket, went to the special alcohol section and bought our beers. In Morocco they sells those cute little light beers, about 33cl a bottle (a pilsner called "Spéciale Flag"). You can drink a whole bunch of them without noticing that your knees are starting to rock. Me and Ylle called them lady-beers, they were just so „bite-size“ :). I don’t usually even like beer that much, but those lady ones were p-r-e-t-t-y tasty. So, we bought our beers and since there were no taxis around, decided to walk back as well. On the way we got of course hot and thirsty again, so we opened some beers and enjoyed ourselves. Passing people did watch us funny, but we barely even noticed them.

Now, looking back, i swear, we were damn lucky we didn’t get our asses kicked. It was so incredibly rude to consume alcohol on the streets of such a conservative islamic city like Fes, more so because we were women, uncovered and not accompanied by a man. It was only our 2nd or 3rd day in Morocco, we were total ignorant idiots, the thought didn't even enter our empty heads that maybe we are being exactly those tourists that we usually point a condescending finger at. I'd like to think by now i already know better :).

It is actually interesting that though Morocco being an Islamic country morally forbids alcohol, it's actually quite widely used and specially popular among younger generation. In Estonia you have to be at least 18 to be allowed to buy and consume alcohol and drinking on the street in public is not allowed at all. Ironically, in Morocco, you can buy the alcohol from the age of 16 already and as far as i know there isn't a law that would make it punishable offense to drink it on the public street, yet while doing so,  you would break a whole bunch of Islamic community laws stemming from Koran and the teachings of the prophets.

So cheers! Or terviseks (in Estonian)! But while in Morocco, it's safest to stick to a mint tea.

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