Coming from the Pacific Northwest, where it rains (or, at least drizzles) much of the year, it’s been a bit of a shock to live in such an arid part of the world. Generally speaking, Morocco is a dry country. Though there are regions, especially in the north and among the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, much of the country sees little rain. In fact, once one crosses the the mountains, annual rainfall is next to nothing.
Being in the south, our area is one of the drier ones. According to locals, it is not uncommon to see less than ten days of rain a year, though this year has been somewhat of an exception and even when it does rain, its not much. But, that’s why it’s called a desert.
Most of the villages in our area exist near or within oases, so population maps would resemble sporadic dots amidst vast stretches of open prairie/desert. The one “river” in town is dry much of the year, though based on its formation, it must have seen its share of water over the years. For now, it sits empty waiting to be filled.
Considering emptiness and aridity had me thinking about another sort of dryness.
Because Morocco is a Muslim country, it is predominately alcohol-free. Aside from specific tourist destinations and large cities, alcohol is generally unavailable. Islam strictly forbid its use for adherents, and though there is some begrudged toleration for foreigners, for the most part it is seen as antithetical to their faith and a regrettably common element of tourism. And, with tourism making up such a large portion of the Moroccan economy, toleration seems the only choice.
Though there have certainly been times in my life when I have used, and abused, alcohol, I no longer consider myself much of a drinker. As I have become older, it has lost much of its appeal. Even when we dress it up with culture, such as wine tastings, or brew pubs, it’s still just a mask on what is otherwise a fairly potent toxin.
Before coming to Morocco, I accepted and participated in alcohol culture. After all, in America, it’s everywhere. Seemingly every event provides the potential, from birthdays to barbecues, there seems to always be a bit of booze around.
Like most men in America, I had never thought to myself, “I’m going to sit back, watch the game, and drink some tea”? As with many other non-Muslim countries, alcohol and sports go hand-in-hand. Alcohol companies have cashed in tremendously by linking the two in the minds of fans. They have been so well marketed that many people feel obligated to consume. The drink and and activity have become so successfully, symbolically paired that people rarely stop to question the connection.
But, it’s not just sports, in the West alcohol is everywhere. We have been convinced it’s a necessary component to a “good time.” If it’s social, there is alcohol. It has become the universal social lubricant, the panacea for excusing bad behavior, and the cause of much familial strife.
I have been in Morocco now for nearly four months, much of that time outside of the larger cities. I have yet to see a bar. Compare this to America, where even the smallest village has at least one, or Bulgaria where one can buy liters of of potent beer nearly anywhere for the equivalent of five dollars . What’s missing in Morocco is not the booze, but the sadness it brings, and I for one, don’t miss it one bit.