Originally Published in Univers no. 1, 21 March 2013
Red, fluorescent lamps on each table illuminate the grinning profiles of teenagers almost too young to be sipping flamboyant cocktails. Their fun was accompanied by old school, American 80’s hits instead of rhythmic, Arabic music so typical for the streets of Marrakesh by night.
I happen to sit next to an artificial palm tree, even though the street just outside was full of the real deal. There were only few elements in this scene that were comfortingly lo-cal: colorful water pipes smoked by those giggly youngsters, complimentary spicy olives, and a Mosque tower in the background, quietly guarding the city from a distance.
It seems that, just as traditional tourism, party-tourism is spread-ing to spoil more and more unspoiled places. Ibiza and Mallorca are slowly becoming passé as more exotic countries like Morocco are taking over as party destinations for thirsty teenagers. The most surprising thing about this choice of a location for spring break-esque holidays is that alcohol is a rather sensitive subject in Muslim countries. And the upcoming Ramadan didn’t make the search for booze any easier; I myself went to great lengths to get hold of even the smallest bottle of nameless white wine to satisfy the kind of thirst that water cannot.
That makes us, tourists, a gold mine for Moroccan bars and res-taurants trying to accommodate our shameful lifestyle. But they do prefer to keep it a secret. Tourists ordering alcohol are rarely seated among regular customers; they are secretly sent upstairs
instead. If you think that sipping beer while being secluded behind a fence of a restaurant terrace adds more excitement and makes you nostalgic about your high school years, this type of holiday destination is for you. The question is, however, how
much this type of tourism changes the ways in which Muslim cultures deal with the issues of (public) drinking. And I don’t necessarily mean for the better.