Walking the streets here is strikingly different to Bahrain.
A seismic shift, particularly at night. Not that I prepare for a walk here at night any differently than I would a walk at night, a woman walking alone, in Toronto or Cork or Rotterdam. In fact, when a Brazilian friend asked how I deal with the street crime here, she chuckled and said, “Oh, just like Rio.” Nothing major: I don’t typically take my mobile out on the street, my purse is worn across my body, and I am aware of who and what is in the vicinity. In Bahrain I could walk away from a banking machine counting my cash, oblivious to passersby.
Night walks in Casablanca have come comfortable to me gradually, but now that we are in the holy month of Ramadan, the routine and rhythm have changed significantly. Streets are deserted for an hour from the start of Iftar. People start to come out again to stroll, populate the cafes, and attend the mosque. This new nighttime routine continues until later than usual to accommodate its late start. This adjustment was the same in Bahrain, but still it is different. But then again, my view of the streets now is obscured by my view of the streets over the past eight months in Casablanca. I am delighted to start writing about Casa’s streetlife now because the early months were a little sour: absent street signs, a not-so-easy-to-decipher taxi network, and new languages entering into the mix I brought with me. More about all that later. For now, I need to sort out my ‘grief’ over my separation from Bahrain. Those are typically words I would scoff at if spoken by someone else. “Get over it,” I’d think. Perhaps this is why it has taken so long for me to get around to naming this occasional longing that blindsides me: I expected to miss people but not the place.
For my last year there I griped incessantly about the pollution, the construction, and the threat of a property bubble. Here I complain about the construction and the threat of a property bubble. Others gripe about the pollution and I laugh: all I can smell is the sea, and I am able to shake a head cold in under two weeks instead of it lingering and festering and turning into bronchitis. But there is a lot more to Casablanca and Moroccan life that has grown on me over the winter and spring. And so I have decided to write my way through the transition and embrace reflexivity, looking back and returning to the present to throw both into sharp relief, to understand my own socialization here (because the place has taken hold of me), and there (because I now know that the place had taken hold of me).
I will start with two lists.
Five Things I Left Behind In Bahrain
- Refrigerators in Laneways (with perishable food for those in need, on the honour system)
- Friday morning cricket matches in vacant lots
- Chai for sale and delivered to construction sites in large urns on the back of a bicycle
- Shawarma Alley
- Cairo Bakery Bread
- The fruit, vegetable, and egg carts that set up anywhere and everywhere
- Men carrying steaming kettles mint tea and a bucket full of glasses, selling tea to construction workers, and to the street traders
- Raja (it is official, I’ve taken a side)
- The Art Deco architecture from its colonial past
- My local boulangerie