The National Library of the Kingdom Of Morocco: this was billed in one of the tourist websites as a must-see, because of its architectural grandeur and surroundings. I braved Death Road again (six lanes of traffic coming from various directions, no pedestrian lights), surviving the experience despite the odds, but only found the baby sister which was called “L’Annexe”, full of Arabic encyclopediae with no French books of any description. It was nice to be out of the midday sun, wearing my new rather-tight black jeans, but it wasn’t the exciting erudite afternoon exploring the knowledge of the Moroccans that I had hoped for.
I had plainly accidentally wandered into the university area. The slight giveaway was the enormous number of young people wandering around including (shock) many of the female persuasion. However, we are still in Arabic Africa, and none of them were wearing crop tops and low slung leggings. I’ve been here four days already and I should be used to it. I notice it because I love it. No-one flaunts themselves. No-one flaunts such a trivial insignificant thing as their waist size.
After a bit of map examination I found a signpost to the real library. To get there one traversed the most symmetrical park in the world, perfectly cut and daisy-free rectangular lawns intersected with perpendicular pathways at regular intervals, with palm trees of identical trunk diameter and height set with mathematical precision. Messing up the perfect pattern were various people sitting on the park benches. This was nice and I felt the urge to join in the endeavour of messing up the perfect park too. But first I wandered to the edge of the park which looked over…
… the entire rest of the city sprawling in low-slung adobe coloured buildings all the way to the blue horizon…
… and the most beautiful glass fronted structure set in front of a huge attractive plaza, labelled in the three languages as The National Library of the Kingdom of Morocco. I do love the look of the trilingual signs. Latin, Arabic and Tamazight (Berber) alphabets, so artistic and interesting to look at. Arabic is flowing and calligraphic with dots and wiggles all over the place, Berber is almost mathematical, with cute circles, lines, rectangles and triangles. Naturally I spent a few minutes attempting to read the Arabic, getting a little stuck on the letters without direct Latin equivalents, then looking at the Berber, and being delighted that I knew which word meant Morocco, that it was transliterated as Maghreb, and that *that particular letter* was a B, and that *that word* must mean “of”.
(This is what it’s like to be me. It can sometimes be a bit of a trial, but then there is unexpected happiness in multi-lingual signposts.)
Ah! But now for the attempt to actually enter the library. Would it work? What were the rules? What did I have to do? Studying everyone else carefully, I noted that we have to put our bag in the bag drop and collect a token for it, we don’t pay for that, and then we can go in. I managed to succeed at the bag part. I got through the airport-style gateways (can’t have been metal detectors though?). But then getting through the next barrier didn’t work. The porter kindly told me I needed a library card. Astutely noticing I was foreign, he said I could get a day’s pass from this desk over here. The desk man asked for my passport. I’d left it at the flat. Identity card? Non. I didn’t have one of those either. Ah well. We all shrugged our shoulders wryly. C’est ca. What can you do? One thing we clearly couldn’t do was bend or break the rules. I was hugely disappointed. I’d looked forward to browsing the intellect of the Moroccans, finding their “teach yourself Arabic” books and their Crime Fiction section, flicking through their collection of daily newspapers and finding something in English. I felt quite down as I went back to the bag drop desk and picked up my bag, catching a glimmer of amusement in the porter’s eye as I did so. Don’t mock, I thought sternly, and considered having a light conversation with him about how unfair life was. However somehow I was just a bit too tired and fatigué to cope with that. So I slunk out back to the park and sat there in the sunshine for a while, considering Morocco and the Moroccans, Rabat and Casablanca, and whether I would visit Essaouira one weekend soon.