Words by: Ryan Child
Hassan, Wine and Tree Goats.
Hassan was sweating into a bottle of clear liquid as he spoke and the sun was cracking off the broken stone road.
“Alcohol. Yes, of course I can get you alcohol. I work in the hotel just over there,” he said, collecting the H of hotel in his mouth like spit.
“Hhhave you guys been hhhere in Maroc long?” His words spilled into the bottle.
“About a month,” I said, as we passed the concrete shops vibrating in the sun. To the left of us a stray dog rested in the shadow of a bright blue van. Hassan tripped on the curb as we crossed the road, deftly keeping the bottle upright. I’d seen the same skills on the streets of England.
“This is my hotel,” he said, decorated by polkadot sweat marks.
My friend, Gareth, pushed a fly from his face and laughed. “This guy is hammered.”
At the hotel, some 5km from Taghazout, Hassan sold us two bottles of wine for an extortionate price and gave us a bottle of beer each for free, apparently.
We stayed in the air conditioning for 10 minutes then set out to walk back to Taghazout, a westernized surfer town that was, ironically, completely dry.
The road back from the tiny village of Tamraght winds up a steep hill so we took a rest on the way, finishing our beers on two huge concrete pipes by the side of the road.
Construction workers were digging a hole in the road ahead, dressed in full djellaba despite the intense heat. One of them stared at us for a while so we moved on.
“Look at that tree,” Gareth said as we walked. “I think it’s full of goats.”
He was right. In a death-fingered tree about the height of a basketball hoop there were three goats standing right at the end of the knuckled branches, grazing on the green leaves.
“We’re a bit like those goats,” I said, staring up as we walked past. “We went all the way to the end of a road to get something to quench our first.”
Gareth kicked the dust off his shoe. “At least the goats don’t have to get their leaves from the sweatiest, alcohol drenched person in Morocco though.”
“True,” I said. “Let’s go back to the apartment and wait for it to get dark so we can drink.”
A dog fight and questions of tax
On the first floor of the flat a family of four watched loud Moroccan television, the mother like a hen, smothered her two small children on a big square sofa while the dad stood and greeted us.
We smiled and walked up to the top floor, where two mattresses lay parallel in a small white room. The paint uncurled from the skirting boards and the ceiling was chequered black like an almost empty biro.
After a few hours we left for the beach through the huge, double bolted door of our new home.
“We are dumber than those tree goats,” Gareth said, as we watched some local boys make a fire on the sand.
“Because goats know what good leaves taste like,” he said. “And this wine is shit.”
We laughed and kept drinking as the Atlantic swallowed up the African sun. A moment later and the beach was lit up again. The faces of three Moroccan boys flickered in their flames. Then the people starting arriving.
Backpackers from France, Sweden and the Netherlands came to sit by the fire, while a group of six Germans hovered around it, talking with the Moroccans. They had been in Taghazout for a week.
Olga was blonde and thin, trapped in a knitted beanie hat, nursing that silent arrogance unique to Germans.
When she spoke it was to Abba, a poptastically named young Moroccan boy who was asking everyone if they wanted alcohol delivered from another town.
The only option was wine so, naturally, Gareth and I decided to get more.
“Actually,” I said. “Goats will eat anything.”
An hour later a moped drove onto the beach, followed strangely by a pack of stray dogs. The driver, armed with a backpack and two carrier bags, handed over the bottles of wine and then fell over onto the sand.
“Come on,” said Abba, taking the driver by his hand. “Why are you always so drunk Hassan?”
And there he was, our man Hassan, completely hammered, doing alcohol runs on a rusting scooter at 10pm.
The dogs circled the fire as everyone began to drink.
“So who will be the first to be so kind as to let us have a drink?” asked Abba’s friend, a gaunt, smiling boy with sunken, black eyes.
A Frenchman held out his bottle. His pockmarked face flashing in the fire’s light.
“Ave a sip,” he said.
“Here, you can just fill my cup, my friend,” the boy said.
One of the dogs, coloured like sand, growled at another.
“For goodness sake,” said Olga. “Will you take the alcohol from people every night Abba? You and your friends take too much now.”
“But we got the alcohol. Without us it would not be here.” Abba said, his eyes widening.
“But we are the ones who pay and every night this week you have been taking our wine,” Olga said, attracting the attention of the dogs and the people.
“We have worked for our money and our wine and now all you want to do is take half of it from us, why? Why cannot you buy some yourself?”
Abba stood up. “We provide you with the service and also share our fire and our country with you, and you cannot pay a small part of what you have to us for that? You are wrong.”
Gareth offered the last half of our bottle . “Abba just take this. It’s all good,” he said.
“I am sorry but no,” said Abba. “Everyone must surely give equally for what we have provided here. Not like this fucking bitch from Germany.”
Olga stood up and one of the dogs moved closer towards her. “Fuck you, you prick. We have given enough to you already you idiot.”
Abba walked towards Olga and everyone stood up. Then one of the dogs, showing its teeth, attacked another dog almost on Olga’s toes.
The two animals were joined by three more as they barked and tumbled at one another, energised, as they tend to be, by human conflict.
Olga managed to move away and the Europeans all left the dwindling fire. The Germans went to the café/hostel above the beach and were in a heated discussion as we walked passed.
Perched on the rocks where we had sat before, prior to the collapse of the Eurozone, the Frenchman looked out to the sea, drinking his wine. The Moroccans had made a smaller fire and sat alone.
Gareth and I walked slowly back to the apartment, as happy as the others to be out of the big group, finishing our wine together.