June 24, 2024


Learn new things

Morocco 1969 | Mort Laitner

We stopped for a espresso and a cigarette in a Spanish educate station’s cafeteria. As we sipped and puffed, an American hippie dressed in an Arab robe lumbered by us.

”Hey dude, you from the States?” Neal inquired.

“Yeah male, I’m from San Francisco. My name is John. Where are you men from?”

“John, I’m  Mort and this is Neal. We’re from from upstate New York. Where by did you get that brilliant Arab robe?” I requested.

John, a basic American hippie, was tall, blonde, skinny and stoned. The odor of cannabis permeated his body–a odor our noses knew only far too properly. He was dressed in a hooded blue and white Arab gown that swept the station’s cement floor.

In one particular lengthy operate-on sentence, John wowed us with tales of  Moroccan times and evenings. “Man you acquired to go, the Moroccans are truly nice individuals, male dope is serious low cost, it’s the greatest hash you will ever style, man meals is genuine affordable, in Tangiers you’ll blow your brains out, you will not at any time want to go away the place, it’s significantly-fucking out.”

Then from less than his gown, he attained into his shorts and pulled out a cardboard matchbox.

“Let me demonstrate you this shit.” And like a magician keeping a deck of playing cards, John bit by bit opened the box. Our eyes lit up at the sight of five grams of soft yellow hash.

Neal nodded his acceptance and I realized our following journey would be in Morocco.

Above the screeching of prepare brakes, the John ongoing to give his pitch. “You men can trade those people faded blue denims you’re carrying for manufacturer new Arab robes. You won’t think it. In the Kasbah, cannabis sells for a greenback a gram. An Arab information will escort you to a supplier for a suggestion of  few American bucks.”

His text sucked us in, like a Woodridge sucker fish slipping into our nets.

My mind went into superior gear.

Mort, weigh the execs and drawbacks:

What could go wrong to two Jewish kids in an Arab state?

When it arrived to obtaining superior, weren’t there constantly major challenges and weren’t we possibility-takers?

Did not John, the hippie, just say how helpful the Moroccans were being?

Didn’t Morocco have a Jewish neighborhood courting again to the times ahead of the destruction of the Next Temple?

Did not Moses Maimonides live in Morocco?

But I also remembered looking through in my Junior Jewish Encyclopedia that for hundreds of several years Moroccan Jews have been forced to are living in ghettos as second-course citizens.

As always, dope won.

We were on the upcoming south-certain practice headed for the southern Spain the place we would board a ship that would get us to the northern idea of Western Africa.

From the ship’s railing, we waved excellent-bye to Spanish shoreline and the Rock of Gibraltar. Approaching the port of Tangier, we marveled on looking at the city’s minarets. As we disembarked, we have been assaulted by a wave of  young Moroccan boys begging to be our metropolis guides. A thirteen-yr-outdated child approached me, grabbed my arm and pulled me apart.

“My name is Mohammed Ali. For a person small selling price, I’ll be your guideline to the metropolis. I’ll just take you to a cleanse hotel.”

I questioned, “Where did he discover to talk fluent English?”

He reduced his voice, “Then I’ll consider you to the Kasbah to acquire hashish?”

I nodded my acceptance.

Neal having read the “H” phrase mentioned, “Sounds terrific. Let us go.”

Ali led us into the European Quarter by means of the Rue De La Kasbah. We walked by a street named Louis Pasteur, the French scientist who discovered pasteurization.

And I pondered, “What would we uncover in Morocco?”

Ali stopped at a pastel-white stuccoed fort-styled hotel. “This is a cleanse lodge and the rooms are reasonably priced.”

“Okay let us check in,” Neal replied.

“Neal, do you don’t forget finding out the French colonization of Morocco?”


“I liked those French International Legion motion pictures exactly where they struggle the Arab on horseback. This Beau Gest lodge delivers again recollections. All it desires is a doorman dressed like Gary Cooper or Ronald Colman in that legionnaire’s white kepi with a sash wrapped all-around his waist.”

“Yup, a doorman standing at focus and saluting us as we entered the resort.” Neal claimed.

The Hotel Scheherazade was constructed in the early forties. It looked like it arrived off the Casablanca motion picture established. Walking by the hotel’s horseshoe-arched portico, we entered the foyer. Its partitions and floors have been lined with glass mosaics and marble panels.  The mosaics mirrored daylight which induced my eyes to blink as if I experienced fallen into a kaleidoscope.

I analyzed the glazed tiles seeking for a drawing of  Rick and Ilsa and only located sketches of  nomads riding camels.

No Bogart, no Bergman, no piano, no Sam and no As Time Goes By.

Neal broke my prepare of considered, “Mort, we received to check out in.”

As I examined the attractive arabesque-patterned rug that hung driving the hotel’s reception desk, the clerk, a slim guy wearing a white linen accommodate greeted us, “Welcome to the Scheherazade. Be sure to fill out the hotel registration and I will require to keep your passports when you are our friends.”

We handed the passports to him, compensated for 1 night’s keep and had been presented a critical to our place. We rushed up the stairs as if Ali would abandon us and not manual us to the hash supplier. Soon after throwing our knapsacks on the beds, we washed the Saharan dust off of our faces and raced back again to the foyer.

Our bar mitzvah-aged guidebook dressed in Levis whisked us into the Kasbah. We crossed via historic white portals framed in blue and yellow tiles. The dust on the street prompted my eyes and nose to twitch. Going for walks through narrow shaded alleys, we bumped into Arab males dressed in white caftans.

In the small distance from the lodge to the Kasbah, we time-traveled from the Twentieth Century into the Sixteenth.

My nostrils burned with a combination of tobacco smoke, canine shit and Center Jap grilled meats. As flies landed on its dropping, 1 mongrel tied to a publish, bore its rib cage and howled of hunger.

These odors melded together less than a Saharan sun. They crawled nevertheless my nostrils, irritating my nose hairs which induced me to continuously sneeze.

Gesundheit.” Neal reported.

“Thanks,” I replied, wondering, “ Yiddish in an Arab capitol not much too shiny.”

We halted in entrance of a two-story setting up immediately after listening to Ali say, “We’re right here. Comply with me up these measures.”

On the next tale, I focused in on the door post and observed a smudge of brown paint. I imagined a mezuzah had at the time been nailed on the place.

I believed, “Is this an omen?”

We entered a gap-in-the-wall condominium. My pupils expanded upon getting into the dimly-lit dwelling home.

Beneath an exposed 60 watt gentle bulb stood a skinny, 20-one thing, dim-skinned Moroccan.  Ali released us.

“Achmed, these are two People in america from New York. Neal and Mort and they want to invest in some of your most outstanding cannabis.”

Achmed wore a crimson Polo shirt, blue Levis and a pleasurable smile.

“Gentleman, welcome to Tangier.”

At this level Ali interrupted, “Guys, I have acquired to go back again to the port so remember to pay out me my guidebook cost.”

We thanked Ali, paid out him his rate and viewed him fly out the doorway.

Our supplier ongoing in fantastic English. “It is a pleasure to satisfy both of you. Remember to have a seat on these pillows. I will be right back.”

As we sat down on the massive ornamental pillows, I examined the a few foot substantial, ornate silver hookah. It rested on the flooring in the middle of the room surrounded by pillows. I researched the Persian carpets mounted on just about every wall.

“Neal glance at each individual of these carpets. They integrate scenes from the Arabian Evenings.”

“Yeah this room is correct out of A Thousand and 1 Nights.” Neal replied.

In the corner of the area rested a stable picket desk. The table held a 1950’s RCA Victrola record participant and the album jacket from Nashville Skyline . The previous blended with the present as the Victrola performed Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay. Dylan’s voice floated into my ears: Lay girl lay, lay throughout my major brass mattress.

Next to the file player a small porcelain incense burner burned. 4 lit incense sticks emitted a blue glow and the scent of jasmine. The smoke zigzagged and danced to Dylan’s lyrics.

I whispered to Neal, “This is fucking unbelievable. Are we part of a Hollywood set or what? We’re listening to Bobby Zimmerman. Final yr at this time we were hoping to meet up with the male at his Woodstock household.”

Our pupils dilated as the Achmed returned holding two massive sheets of hash. Each sheet was the dimensions if a Spanish ground tile.

“Wow, which is one particular hell of a site. I have never ever viewed these types of a significant quantity of dope. Each and every sheet would be truly worth at the very least a thousand pounds in the States.” Neal whispered.

But in advance of the negotiations commenced, Achmed claimed, “Would you guys like a taste?”

We the two nodded our heads in agreement. Achmed pinched off a gram of hash and inserted it into the hookah’s bowl.

As he readied the pipe, I analyzed the a number of-hosed hookah with its ornate brass fixtures and a blue glass vase. With a wooden match, Achmed lit the hash. The smell of sulfur hit my nostrils. The match flame sent a flash throughout the area.

Putting the hose in my mouth, I took a prolonged deep drag. Soon after a couple seconds I exhaled the sweet-smelling smoke watching it float toward the ceiling.

Right after a couple of extra hits we were all blasted. Achmed now turned to enterprise. “How considerably of this shit do you want to buy?” he inquired.

On the lookout Achmed sq. in the eyes, I replied, “We’ll be in Morocco for only a limited time, so we only need 10 pounds well worth.”

The home went chilly. I viewed his eyes and body language adjust from relaxed to uptight.

“Are you Jews? You search like Jews.” He sneered.

Silently, I moved my lips to recite the Shema Yisrael.

Neal uttered the denial, “We’re not Jews, no not us. We’re Christians.”

In my inebriated point out, I paused to question, “How substantially improved off we had been with Neal’s denial?”

Achmed broke off a hand-sized piece of hash and said, “Here’s the offer assholes. Either you obtain this chunk of hash for fifty dollars or I am likely to have my Uncle Mohammad to have you arrested. He is the chief of the Tangier Police Division. ”

My bowels constricted, as he continued, “And if you don’t know it, in Moroccan jails the only food items you get is from men and women on the exterior. The jailors provide you with only dirty h2o.”

Hearing individuals words and phrases forced my abdomen into my throat. My belly acids burned by means of my esophagus and tears fashioned in my eyes. Now I realized what could take place to two Jewish young ones in an Arab region. Adrenaline ran through my veins like motion picture goers fleeing a burning theater.

I seemed at Neal and whispered, “You seize the dope. I’ll hand him fifty bucks. We each sprint out of right here and run to the hotel, nonstop.”

“Let’s do it,” Neal replied.

I paid and we ran out the door, down the steps, into the road towards our resort.

Neal trapped the hand-size piece of hash in his pocket. My capillaries popped as I scanned for Moroccan gendarmes.

In our Scheherazade place, we caught our breathe. Neal blurted out his strategy, “Before the cops get right here, let us take in some of this things and dump the rest in the toilet.”

“I’m with you buddy. Let us go for it.” I replied.

We each and every broke off a several grams, swallowed difficult to keep away from choking  and washed down the dry clay-like compound with a glass of h2o. The remainder we  flushed down the rest room.

“I just can’t feel we just flushed above 40 grams of hash down the bowl.” Neal reported.

Hitting the mattress, I peaceful realizing that the incriminating proof was absent. My blood strain leveled off as the hash began to therapeutic massage my mind.

Inside an hour the initial hallucinations appeared. The room’s walls crept to my mattress, slammed into the bed’s corners and then bounced off . I viewed in a condition of utter fascination. When I stopped focusing on the walls, the grey paisley-patterned curtains swam on to the ceiling as if a stream of sperm searched of a solitary egg.

Thrilled and terrorized by this hallucinogenic excursion my brain went into snooze manner, a deep slumber.

Close to four A.M., I woke to the ringing of the telephone. I answered, “Hello. Who is this? What do you want?”

The male voice on the other close of the line responded in French, “A quelle heure est votre bateau au depart?”

“A trois heures,” I replied—knowing entire well that we would be sailing out of Tangier at eleven o’clock in the early morning and not at three in the afternoon. Acquiring it complicated to tumble back to sleep, I tossed and turned pondering, “Who identified as?”

“Was it the police?”

“Was it Achmed or one particular of his conspirators?”

“Or, was it a hallucination triggered by the ingestion of  so a lot hashish?”

I fell back to sleep for about an hour. Only to be woke up at dawn by the voices of Moroccan cattle dealers bringing their livestock to sector.

My paranoid, drug-induced mind, translated their Arabic cries.  “Kill the Jews, Eliminate the Jews!” Hiding and shaking underneath the sheets, I pictured Arabs keeping nooses and knives beneath my resort window. My concern abated when their voices faded away.

Nonetheless shivering , I wondered, “How a lot of periods and in how quite a few languages  experienced my father listened to those people phrases?

I cringed at the imagined, “Had he ever in fact found people murdered just after individuals words and phrases had been screamed?”

That morning in the lodge cafe, over Turkish espresso and Galois cigarettes, I recounted the full tale to Neal.

“Mort, fairly frightening tale. That hash blew me away. I did not hear the phone ring or the cattle dealers chants. I preferred how your mind translated Arabic to English, because you really do not converse a word of Arabic. But let us play it safe and sound. I believe we should get a cab to the port appropriate now. No perception in taking any a lot more possibilities.”

As our ship remaining the shores of Tangier, I smiled at our luck and mentioned, “Thank G-d we created it. Last evening I pictured us jailed, hung and/or castrated. They have been not rather pictures…definitely not Hollywood.”

Neal listened but remained silent for a couple seconds. I guessed he still felt the results of the hash. Then he bellowed, “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord. I feel I see the Spanish coastline.”

“Neal, when I get off this boat I am going to kiss the soil of Spain.” And I did.


As Morocco and Israel normalize ties, I believed presenting my 1969 Moroccan journey which is taken from a chapter of  my guide, “A Hebraic Obsession” (accessible on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Hebraic-Obsession-Mort-Laitner/dp/0996036903) would be of interest to TOI readers.