September 20, 2004
Recently my wife and I, and our ten-year-old son, moved to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, to a small university town. I think of it as the Winesburg, Ohio, of the Maghreb. My wife teaches American literature in a high school. I am a journalist.
The mood in Moroco these days is tiered. Moroccans are exceptionally polite and unabashedly friendly by nature, and they are particularly hospitable to foreigners. But underneath, there is uneasiness, due in part, no doubt, to the 30 percent unemployment rate. That’s the real tinder for fanaticism. But there is something else, a mild case of xenophobia. It’s well-known that foreigners are not welcome in some quarters of Tangier and in Casablanca, where a series of bombs on May 16, 2003, killed forty-one bystanders and ten suicide bombers. Among the targets were a Jewish-owned restaurant and a Spanish social club.