We were invited to Pages, Chapter 2 at the very beginning of September, and were intrigued enough by the Facebook event description to head across town with a friend of mine to attend. I found it funny that it took place on a Wednesday night, but didn't give it much thought. After many minutes of searching for the street in the old "colonial downtown" of Casablanca, notorious for one-ways and no street signs, we finally decided the bar, Le Vertigo, must be close, and parked. We walked down the street, nothing. So we walked up the street following the numbers and looking for 110. Suddenly we were at 130, so doubled back a bit and realized we had walked straight in front of the discreet street opening! "Man this is underground," I thought to myself.
|All pics stolen from: https://www.facebook.com/pagestheothersidesofmorocco/timeline|
Little did I know, but I was more right than I guessed— after paying our 50dh entrance fee and entering our names for the raffle prizes we were directed down a flight of stairs. Upon arrival in the cozy basement, the first thing I noticed was the conspicuous lack of something: pretension. I feel rather awkward in many social settings so yes I was a bit uncomfortable, but that's just me no matter what, so when I say it felt like a low-key house party at a buddy's home, I mean it. A buddy with many friends I don't know, sure, but I did meet the friend who invited me on Facebook right at the bottom of the stairs, and we were all soon engrossed in conversation with all sorts of interesting people. We even got offered free mini cupcakes from a sponsor (from the others' reactions, they were amazing).
|Can you spot us?|
After a while we settled around some small tables and the storytelling started. The idea behind Pages is that there are so many stories to be told about Morocco, so why not tell them? Here's the event description from their Facebook:
"Pages" is an event devoted exclusively to Morocco and life in this charming, yet ambiguous country. We desire to show that it is not as bad as some people tend to think.
Each one of us, whether the expats or Moroccans have countless stories to share. Sometimes joyful, sometimes a bit tough. No matter what the experience is, it always makes a memorable chapter of our endless book about living in this country. We want to show you Morocco from a different perspective and share our experiences in a different, friendly atmosphere- far from crowded conferences and formal stages.
The idea is to organize "Pages" every month. Each month a new Chapter. We want to make it an endless book that everybody can be the author of!
First we heard from an adorable Italian girl, who I had been chatting with earlier, about how she met her Moroccan husband on a train while touring with some friends. Then that same husband and his band Chouftchouf took over, and they treated us to some live music which was underground, real, and fantastic. There was a bit of rap, hiphop, even reggae all mixed in. After that we had a Canadian man talk about him making his way to Morocco after meeting his wife in Canada at art school, then an exhibition of her stunning photography, and even a Moroccan comedian! Everybody was young, interesting, and real. The stories were ones I could relate to, and everyone found themselves grinning and nodding more than a few times! THIS is exactly the kind of event I've been missing all these years in Casablanca, and finally I found it! What's more, now that I work "normal" hours I can attend evening events, whereas a year ago I would have been shaking my head saying "oh well, another thing I can't go to." Kindergarten teaching FTW.
Not long into the night, Othman gave me a meaningful look, nudged me and whispered, "You next time?" Myriam, the friend I brought along, made a similar remark later on. They know me well, because before either of them mentioned anything I was already halfway composing my "story" in my mind.
The evening ended with a raffle drawing with some pretty spectacular prizes— nights for two in amazing riads around the country, a signed copy of The Caliph's House by Tahir Shah, and some cool printed calendars, coasters and more. Both the people attending and the storytellers had drawings and a lot of people went away happy! After that I managed to run up to the blonde girl in a djellaba who was clearly in charge, and ask her how to speak next time. She told me just to contact them on Facebook and that they needed people! Needless to say, I left happy too.
A week or two later I met Monika, the blonde Pole who is fearless and infectious in her enthusiasm, and Amr, an Egyptian-Moroccan who never stops smiling, for coffee close to the apartment they share with some other young expats. Joining us was Sarah, an inspiring French-Moroccan who is just beginning an amazing documentary/social work project that is totally worth checking out. We all chatted about our lives, Morocco, and Pages, and Monika and Amr gave Sarah and I info about being storytellers and about how the event came to be. Apparently after living here a few months they two of them felt the same need I did for events like this, and instead of complaining and pining like me, they simply did something about it, and started this up! I'm seriously in awe of these two. Also, they solved the riddle about it being on Wednesdays— they wanted to keep the unassuming vibe, and felt like holding it during a weekday would keep it from turning into a Saturday night party. I like that reasoning.
Later on in the month we all met up again at their apartment with a few more people that will be speaking, and Othman came along that time too, and we had a really lovely evening chatting and taking "behind the scenes" photos, despite our pressing work schedules.
Now Chapter 3 is coming up in a week's time, and I'm really excited to read what I've prepared and share my little bits of Morocco with others. Maybe after it happens I'll post it on here, who knows. If you're in Casa try to make it out— it should definitely be a fun night.