By Jawad Azzouggagh
By Jawad Azzouggagh
Toronto- Does Morocco have a drinking problem? I seem to be asking that question more and more these days. In reality, it is something we should discuss as a nation. It is healthy to discuss it.
Sadly, we all know that our bars are full of locals. Rich and poor, men and women. One place brings them all together, under flashing disco lights and the melodies of exotic music. Even if the law clearly states the sale and consumption of alcohol is for tourists and foreigners, no one really cares about that. It is one of those laws that exists, but doesn’t really exist. When it comes to serving these patrons, there are really no guidelines or training provided or implemented by local government agencies, such as the health department.
In the West, bars are vigorously inspected by special agencies to ensure that alcohol consumption policies are in place. These polices ensure the safety of the public. Before one can serve alcohol in Canada for example, they must complete a course called a Smart Serve. This educational course allows the person serving alcohol to learn about the responsibility of serving alcoholic drinks, and understanding the risks of over-serving a patron. These laws are very strict, so much so that a bar can be shut down for simply allowing drunkenness. Yes, allowing drunkenness in a licensed establishment is against the law, even if defeats the idea of going to a bar.
Why don’t we go out and see what it is really like in Morocco. We show up to a popular bar in Meknes, the imperial city at the footsteps of the Atlas Mountains. Around 5 o’clock in evening on a cold Saturday, I meet an old comrade for a night out. As we walk into one of the favorite and most popular bars downtown, I cannot help but to appreciate the melodies of Oum Kaltjoum, creating a positive vibe and the smell of Lamb Tagines is captivating. It all comes together so wonderfully, but deep down the guilt takes overs and I can’t help but feel that I am doing something wrong.
The middle aged barmaid Dunia, looks like she is having a bad night. She greets us with a wan smile and tired eyes, opens two beers and prepares our table for endless tapas to come. If anyone can tell you about locals drinking, its Dunia. She has seen it all, and after a few cold ones she was not hesitant to share her experiences over a period of thirty years in the business.
“People come here to get wasted and they don’t know how to have a glass or two,” she told us. “The bar owners just want us to sell the maximum. It’s very sad to see my people come here and blow their entire monthly pay in one night.”
After only 4 hours of sitting at the bar, trying to get a feel for a night out, It is obvious that almost all of the patrons are intoxicated and it seems that there is no end in sight. In fact, the bars will continue serving alcohol until morning, when sadly everyone stumbles out into the daylight.
So why is it that in a Muslim country where alcohol is considered haram (prohibited), so many residents consume so much? I think it is the fact that drinking is considered shameful and that it must be consumed in secret. This leads to overconsumption when given the chance. It is like underage drinking in Canada. Since people under the age of 19 are not allowed to drink, it is common for teenagers who want to experiment to buy alcohol illegally and then consume too much. This often leads to alcohol poisoning as they have not yet learned the limit that their bodies can handle and are not in public places such as bars where consumption is limited.
According to the WHO, the majority of Moroccans abstain from alcohol. However, anyone who has gone out on the town can clearly see that this is not the case. Many Islamists have argued that alcohol should be banned, and recently there has been a huge increase in prices and taxes due to pressure from these groups.
Those in favor of keeping alcohol available argue that banning it will be detrimental to the income generated by tourism and also to the thousands of jobs created by Morocco’s thriving wine business.
We all know that alcoholism is a serious problem worldwide and a problem that cannot be ignored in our kingdom. I am deeply concerned about the incidences of serious illnesses, psychiatric problems and fatal car accidents that seem to be plaguing my beloved nation.
Statistics on alcohol consumption do not accurately reflect the consumption of alcohol in Morocco as they are based primarily on self-reporting and this can be seen in cases of liver cirrhosis, diabetes and traffic accidents due to impaired driving.
Banning alcohol altogether would significantly impact tourism and the revenue this generates. And it could potentially lead to black market trading and home brewing. This is already a problem as there are bootleggers throughout the country that will deliver alcohol 24/7.
The solution therefore does not lie in making Morocco a dry country. The responsibility lies with the government to enforce regulations. But they cannot do this without first acknowledging the problem.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.