Morocco has a lot of things going for it. It is safe, stable, friendly, easy to reach, fascinating to explore, and made for Instagram. It is also illegal to be gay there.
We in the West tend to forget that we are a world minority when it comes to gay rights. Huge swathes of Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe are still very much hostile territory, and we have to adjust accordingly. It’s galling to ask a out gay person to go back on the DL, but international travel often demands just that. It even has a name: the Travel Closet. And depending on where you go, it is absolutely necessary. Or at least, it makes your life a lot easier. I know, galling.
But let me be honest: When I set foot in Fes, or Tanger, or Meknes, it was all about the souks, the hammams, the architecture (!), the rugs (!!), the food (!!!), and the history. It was not about the clubs. I am from New York City; I have gay clubs
c umming coming out of my ears should I feel the need. In other words, I had a to-do list in Morocco and a booty call was pretty far down it. To say I de-gayed myself is stretching it, but the subject never came up since it wasn’t one I was paying attention to.
Consequently, I didn’t notice I was being checked out. A lot.
The Exception to the Rules
The story reads like a comedy. Unlike bastions of traditionalism like Fes or Marrakech, Casablanca is the modern face of Morocco. Something of a drab business hub in the day, the city comes alive at night when all the clubs open.
Traveling with a female companion, I got it into my head that when she and I hit the clubs, I would be the de facto boyfriend fending off the vultures. So I squeezed her in at the bar at Cabesan (tres chic!) and did a sort of mindful hover behind her. And I noticed two guys making eyes at me.
Well, it was a club, and it was a major city; I had to run into native gays at one point. And then I noticed another guy looking me over. And another guy. And another. And–you gotta be kidding me–another. Turns out, my lady-friend was safe as kittens.
And that is how it works in this neck of the woods. Generally speaking, in the Muslim World, life outside the closet is so constricted as to be nonexistent, but the realm within it is VAST. It’s not online (that can be monitored) nor in an out-and-proud “scene.” It is all about infiltrating the scene already there and relying on, dare it be said, your cruising skills. For Americans spoiled into instant gratification with Grindr and Scruff, the idea of cruising a guy up, of the subtle visual flirtation, indeed, seduction, is like speaking the Martian version of Greek. But low and behold, that’s the game, albeit old-fashioned, I found myself playing.
Plan of Attack
Did I follow through? No. I was with another person, after all, and she and I were a unit for the night. There is also the very wise advice about not getting involved with natives. But it was a pleasant, and very flattering, aspect of Morocco that I did not expect to find until it was about to fall on top of me.
Keep in mind this was only in Casablanca. Fes, Marrakech, Meknes–the more traditional-minded cities still require a step into the Travel Closet. And considering there isn’t that much of a “club scene” in any of them as there is in Casablanca, it’s not that hard to do. I was doing so much walking (those medieval city streets have no room for cars) that by the time the sun went down, so did I.
Also keep in mind that as modern as Casablanca is, it is not like the morals police will look the other way or that being a foreigner will insulate you from Moroccan law. Gay life is undercover here, perhaps just underneath surface, but still secretive nevertheless.
But if you don’t mind doing it old-school, you’d be surprised just how gay Morocco really is.