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Trains, taxis and limousines


Adventures in the Maghreb
Frederic Raphael Writer
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So anyway, I went into the Kasbah, I met a young Arab boy who said that he would take me to a place where they smoked opium, well he called it opium. So we went to this café and I was given this pipe of kif which is marijuana, I'd never smoked it before, never even knew it existed before. I never heard of those things. Nobody did drugs in Cambridge, nobody. Not in the Fifties.

So I started smoking this thing and then when it was finished you go blow and it goes pop and pops out and falls on the floor. And while I did that I looked at an Arab guy who was lying on the bench and as I went pop like that he just rolled of the bench and went whack on the floor. Another Arab sitting over there said, 'Too many pipes'. So the little boy said, have another pipe, have another pipe. So I think I may have or I may not. I was quite high quite quickly with this stuff but it wasn't... I didn't feel very mad. So the little boy – I think he was about 12 – the kid said, 'Tonight I come to your hotel', I was staying at the Hotel Bristol in the European quarter of Tangiers, 'and I'll take you to the brothels, okay?'

So I said fine, fine, excellent, terrific, good. So I was quite exhausted by this point, so I walked back to the hotel with him, he showed me the way back to the Bristol, I don't know whether I gave him any money or whether I didn't, I don't have any particular memory of it. I hope I tipped him something. Anyway much it matters. Went upstairs to my room and just – pow – collapsed. When I woke up it was eight o'clock but it wasn't 8 o'clock that night it was 8 o'clock the following morning. I'd slept for about 16 hours! And I didn't have any dreams, no headaches nothing. Except the little boy never showed up and I never went to the brothels.

I set of to Morocco on the train. And did a lot of stuff in Morocco, went to Fes and to Meknes and I had dinner in Meknes with an Arab prince called Moulay Ta-ib, he invited me to dinner through the owner of a book shop in the European quarter, whose name, who was a Russian princess, she said, a refugee, she won prizes in some French publishing house. Anyway she introduced me to them and I went to have dinner with Moulay Ta-ib and of course there were no tourists because there was a crisis. The French had expelled the Sultan Mohammed V because he was trying to get independence and they put a puppet in his place and the tourists weren't going because they were always frightened, and the place was sort of under a curfew and martial law and all the rest of it. But I was Freddy Raphael, you know, I came from England and America and things. And nothing was going to happen to me. I was there to have a look. And I had a look. It was fantastic, fantastic. I loved it. And I wrote pretty well about it. Well enough for me to copy pretty well word-for-word, what I wrote then into what I'm writing now. Anyway, I had dinner with Moulay Ta-ib and he said that he was in mourning because he supported the Sultan who had been exiled, so here wasn't going to be much dinner. Upon which dishes and dishes arrive and it was all, you could only eat with your right hand, your left hand you must not touch food. When you put the food from the kebab into your mouth you mustn't touch your lips with your fingers. It had to go like that.

He was very nice, he was a philosopher. He knew Spinoza, he knew Hobbs and he was very intelligent, evolué French-educated Arab. I don't think we mentioned the Jews. I wasn't really very concerned about the Jews. But he was very keen that the French should not desert Morocco when the Sultan was restored, when he would be able to shave his beard and have a better meal, and the friend that was with him as well. But he talked as I say in a thoroughly intelligent way about wanting the French to say behind and administer, teach the Moroccans how to administer the country, but in a role underneath the Sultan, not as it had been until now as the masters of the Sultan. And that was a kind of perfectly sensible liberal position. And then he said, alternatively the French can kill all of us. And that of course was better still, because then salvation would be assured if we died as martyrs.

And one suddenly thought, as one did talking to communists, up until the point where it all goes completely crazy, it's all absolutely fine. That's the way life seems to me to work quite often.

I had actually been in the train coming to Fes with a guy in a big brown suit and a homburg hat. Looked like William Wiseman or Joseph Wiseman, what is it, in Viva Zapata. There was a sort of fanatical communist who attended Zapata. And this guy sat with a young Moroccan guy and he was actually English, and he was a Jew because when he took his hat off he had a skull cap on. And he was a Zionist who was out to gather in the many thousands of Moroccan Jews who still live in the Maghreb.

I mention him because when I was in Meknes here was a whole encampment of many, many Jews and they wore black djellabahs black robes and they had these houses with the windows opening onto the open. And they were not, I think, ill-used that time, they were apart. I didn't think I ever spoke to any of them.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Kasbah, Morocco, Maghreb, Moulay Ta-ib

Duration: 5 minutes, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014