Cafés dominate life in Morocco. Young men and old men, smoking shisha and taking tiny sips of coffee, all sit by the café and gaze around at passers by from day to night. They probably have been sitting there for hours already. During my time in Fez, it felt like it was impossible to walk more than a block without finding another café, almost always crowded by men who sit there facing the streets and gazing at passersby. I am intrigued by every café I pass.
Cafes are the key place to socialize. Men gather to drink sweet mint tea and watch people as they go about their affairs. It’s obvious that cafés are an integral part of Moroccan culture. I have noticed that Moroccans by nature are very relaxed and laid back people, who also really enjoy being engaged with their community and interacting with other Moroccans. This is why the café seems like a perfect place for them, it is both the perfect relaxing place and the place that brings Moroccans together. Cafés are almost like a second home for many Moroccans, and their popularity shows that there is a cultural need for the environment they provide, which is probably even more important than the tea itself.
The American habit of taking a quick cup of coffee on your way to work is not the way in Morocco. Here a single cup is consumed over hours. I honestly envy their life. Living in the United States for a year already, I have gotten used to the fast paced and rushed life. I have often found myself get engulfed by the busyness of my days that I barely have time to pause and reflect on my day. It often feels like I will fall behind and fail if I stop moving. In America, progress and success now means fast.
Through observing this practice, I have begun to wish I had the time in my day to reconnect with my place, to reflect on my day and have sometime for myself. However, the hectic lives of first-world countries make it an impossible feat to perform. There is often barely enough time to sit down and enjoy my day while relaxing and interacting with other people. Perhaps it has even reached to the point where people on campus barely have time to stop and greet to each other out of fear of being distracted and being late to where they have to be. That would never happen in Morocco. In Morocco, if two people see each other in the streets, they would go out of their way to greet each other and acknowledge each others presence, sometime taking as much as 15-30 minutes talking to each other in the streets.
Coffee in Morocco is more than just a drink. Coffee is when social interactions happen. The café is a place to talk, read, write, play chess, and pass the time. It is the place where Moroccans reflect about their day and discuss current issues. In Morocco time is paid little attention to. What matters most is the present moment, whether it lasts a few minutes or several hours. And that is found between sips of coffee.