Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
Click on the picture link in the sidebar to read an extract of my first novel, which was published by Paradise Press in August 2012.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

L' Inconnu

I did some research online before I came about gay life in Morocco. It’s certainly true that my gaydar will need retuning here; boys walk around arm in arm and it means nothing. I even saw a boy riding on the back of a scooter kissing the driver affectionately on the neck yesterday. One of the articles I read online suggested trying the cafés in “Guéliz”, it turns out those are some of the places in the new town around Boulevard Mohammed V which I had visited last time, such as the Café de la Poste, which serve alcohol. I haven’t gone back there, and I seem to remember there being some kind of rule as to where you could sit with your expensive thimbleful of beer. The article said the technique was to leave a packet of cigarettes on the table, so a stranger could have a plausible reason to approach you. God knows what you are supposed to do if you don't smoke, wear a pink carnation? Duhh, we're not called "fags" for nothing! It also said if you sat in view of the street you could make eye contact and then the boy would follow you discreetly after you left and “a price could be agreed”. This is not at all what I have in mind but, what can you expect? The meter seem always to be running over here. I had hoped that by, following a number of local gay rights organisations on twitter, some of their followers might notice me and check out my profile. So far nothing has come of it. For some strange reason I cannot fathom, I seem to be gathering quite a following in Taiwan. But none of them are tweeting. Don’t know what to make of it but, hey, if it directs a market towards my book I don’t really care.

Anyhow, when I went to get my internet dongle and SIM card, my first port of call was some of the places off the main square ("Place Jemaa el Fna"--I can never remember the name!). I duly purchased the SIM card for 30 Dirhams and a 20 Dirham top-up, which was still quaintly on a scratch card. The guy in the shop didn’t have any dongles, but directed me to a place three doors up which did, but which was, unfortunately, not yet open. So I sat down in a café opposite and ordered a coffee. I instinctively placed my fag packet on the table next to the coffee and, lo and behold, a boy turned up and began talking to me. He asked for a fag and sat down. The conversation was in English. Bad sign. He offered to show me around. Bad sign, I’d never get rid of him. He was poorly dressed and had several teeth missing. Deal breaker. I finished my coffee and left. Seems what you read online can sometime be uncannily accurate.

The other issue here, I was informed by the article I read, is do you or he have somewhere to go back to? A "local". In principle, I have this hotel room. It has a very discreet entrance off the street and there’s nearly no-one around. So that could work, except for the absence of the safe in the room which had been advertised. I don’t want to go to the loo and find the room empty of both boy and my money and computer when I come back. And then, I begin to understand what it was like in the UK before 1967. Technically, I would be opening myself up to the threat of blackmail. Although the boy would be in more danger, I suppose. And that’s not to say guys aren’t having sex over here. The large number online today on gaydar suggests that at least some guys over here are getting their rocks off.

Last night was my second visit to the tiny restaurant off the road past my hotel. That is, "Rue el Gza", which has become "Rue Laarous" by the time you get to the restaurant. It is a tiny room with about five very low tables and the chairs are equally low but even then your knees scrape the table from below. It isp oorly lit by small candles on each table. The food is prepared in a small kitchen in the same room and the front is open to the street, so you eat with motor scooters and donkey carts passing by. The set menu is 60 dirhams, for which you get a bowl of olives, a salad, a tagine and a dessert. Seems a good deal, only the olives were very strongly marinated and the salad vastly too complicated with almost everything they could think of in it and smothered with some kind of sauce or other. Just like in Holland. By the time I got to the tagine I was already full. It came sizzling hot and my poulet au citron was just that, a chicken breast and two halves of a preserved lemon and some meat juices. It was so fibrous as to be almost inedible. Today I chose a simple salad of tomatoes. What could go wrong? It was smothered with ground up hard boiled egg, topped with grated cheese and mayonnaise. The berber tagine which followed had far too many vegetables in it and only a small amount of, this time, edible chicken at the bottom. It was not seasoned properly and had too much turmeric. And the dessert? A simple plate of orange slices… topped with ground cinnamon. A foul combination. For the second time I left feeling sick.

Today I wanted to find an alternative. Some of the places off Place Jemaa el Fna offered reasonable sounding choices, including liver and kebabs, at lower prices even, but I decided not to bother just yet. But the logic of skipping the revolting salad is inescapable. Making my way back to Guéliz, I gave in and stopped off at Macdonalds. At least I got what I paid for and knew it for what it would be like.

The hotel here is quite a labyrinth, and most of the doorways look the same. I sometimes have difficulty finding the exit. All the doorways look the same and some are to guest bedrooms. Yesterday morning was no exception, and imagine my surprise when a gorgeous guy in his early twenties who I’ve never seen here before showed me the way out. On the way he asked about my family, and was able to establish I was by myself. Well that’s very nearly a tick, since that’s one of the key questions to ask when sounding someone out. He asked me if I smoked weed. Hmmm… I could offer to share a spliff on the roof terrace, but then I’m back to the problem of the room. I saw him clearing some dishes from breakfast, so perhaps he works here time-to-time or else is part of the proprietor’s family? If so that could go one of two ways, either making it easier or extremely difficult. Not to mention may capacity to make more noise than is reasonable!

I was eagerly on the look out this morning, but of him there was no sign. Except when I left to make my way into town. I caught sight of a guy wearing what can only be called radioactively white shell suit pants. Actually, to be honest, it was mainly the jogging pants I noticed. As I made my way down the street I was called from behind. It was he, the boy from yesterday, whose white trousers I'd just checked out. He offered to sell me weed and said he’d give me a democratic price. I said no, but then had an idea. I’ve been having trouble loading the credit on my SIM card, as the instructions are all in arabic, and asked for his help. He duly obliged and, when he asked for my phone to put in the code, I took a risk. It was safely handed back to me with the credit loaded. So, tick on trustworthiness up to now anyway. He doesn’t seem to be in employment, unless selling shit to tourists counts? And I suppose it is Sunday, after all?

For reference, the off-licence I am using is on the left-hand side of Boulevard Mohammed V as you go out of town (so the south-west side, just past the Post Office. It’s called “Palais de Restauration” and has a simple black sign and a window with a black grill covering it. (picture to follow)

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