Published On: Wed, Feb 13th, 2013

What fuels the love of Moroccans for cafés instead of libraries?

By Hassan Bendouz

Morocco News Tribune

-Feature Story-

Agadir, Morocco—It has become part of the daily life scenes in the Moroccan cafés to find herds of common people from all ages gathering around tables of tea and coffee, debating football issues, arguing cheap politics and killing their life boredom with exchanging dirty jokes and non-stop gossip.

Few among them hold a newspaper for the sake of getting enlightened. Once opening a local newspaper, their eyes race to find any news story or article dealing with crimes of rapes, drug trafficking, or prostitution.

Café newspapers readers have a tremendous hunger to feed their greedy curiosity by digging in other people’s private lives. Indeed, they’re in a dire need to stuff their starving minds with the trivial details of soccer games, who killed who, who robbed who in the marginalized ghettos of the kingdom.

Some of these cafes’ regular attendees are middle aged men who spent 100 percent of their non-working time drinking lots of tea and switching seats in café terraces.

In Morocco, there are cafe terraces lining main squares and decorating backstreets.  It just looks as if the people in cafes outnumber those at work. I found it extremely abnormal that some of them come very early in mornings even before the café owners themselves. There is another category of people who sit around café tables the whole day simply by ordering a small tea pot or a tiny cup of black coffee.

This scene made me reflect on this issue and dared to ask a friend of mine who works as a waiter in a café around where I live. I asked him why these people spend the whole day in your café. He laughed and replied “Most of these men colonizing our terraces for long hours don’t feel at ease with their wives and kids at home. They just escape their marital life and take shelters in people’s pains and sorrows while reading newspapers”.

It’s obvious that nature does not stand emptiness and void. Cafés are not made to kill one’s precious lifetime. Cafés are not psychological hospitals where people alleviate their inner tribulations and cure their mental sicknesses.

In fact, there are few libraries in our neighborhoods, but most of them stay empty the whole time. People could cross hundreds of kilometers in order to seek healing miracles via sleeping in a shrine, but they cannot cross their front doors or go beyond the borders of their homes to have a couple of minutes reading in their neighborhood library.

Most of the Moroccan families decorate parts of their living rooms with some common and scary religious books that they hardly read. These books turned to be safe havens for spiders and landing places for dusts since they are rarely opened.

We invest lots of money beautifying our bedrooms, widening our living rooms and stocking food in our fridges, but very few among us include a library in the house construction plans.

What really aches in the heart is that when some people find you still reading after graduating and having a job, they just warn you to stop doing it, so as not to get nuts in the trip of seeking the unknown.

In our society, all concepts have been distorted. People cherish being ignorant and defend it to death while knowledge is viewed as a journey of wasting time and energy.

In our society, the majority of families merely send their kids to schools and universities for the sake of getting a job, not for the love of knowledge itself.

People need to understand that books help us understand who we are and how we should behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.

Some people claim that excess reading will undoubtedly lead you to inevitable craziness, where you risk walking naked, barefooted and throw stones at people. It is strange but true.

It’s true that you don’t have to burn books in order to destroy any nation’s culture and civilization. All it takes to do so is preventing its people from stop reading. And the question now is: what does prevent us from reading?


  • Gewissens Bliss

    aaah, I love this article! We have the same shit here in Germany. In addition every household has at least one playstation or wee so people get the rest of their spirit blown by playing stupid computer games.
    But there are glimmers of hope as well. One of my friends, father of 3 wonderful children aged 3, 7 and 9 refuses to buy a TV. His kids love books, have the wildest phantasies e. g. about pirates or knights, are clever like hell and speak much better than other children at the same age.

  • Mohamed Hikal

    So true Hassan. your article voices most of what I always wanted to say

  • latifa taleb

    yes that’s true our families teach us to go to school just to get a job that’s why we have problemes now we don’t have this culture of reading and we think that if we just have a job that’s mean that we finish our studies but this is wrong and i wish that they push us from the Elementary school to have this habit of reading and i am sorry if my english was not too good

  • Hassan Bendouz Bendouz

    Obviously reading is neither part of the arab nor the moroccan culture – the reason why people’s horizons of analysing the world are so limited and constrainted to what they inherit frm the dead past ! what’s more funny is that even at the university itself it’s too rare to find a university profesor holding a boook , instead they all show off carrying keys of their cars in their hands !!

  • Oumaima Dergui

    Congratulate for the choice of the topic . it is really a “phenomenon”
    contributed in this phenomenon several points…the education is the first thing, and various external influences.
    Down to unscrupulous dealers stuff and from the authorities.
    i think some young men make cafe the breathing space for them to escape from their own problems sometimes.
    especially that young people are deprived of care by governments in our countrie.
    ways to reduce this is not impossible but it’s not easy at the same time
    required in this cases and and especially in “Agadir” most of cafes
    serving “shisha” or “cigarettes”. so here comes the role of governments
    to reduce the import of tobacco ,molasses tobacco,and raising prices.
    and opening outlets and alternative to reduce drift behind these places . as you treated in your article ” more libraries” will be more important.

  • Nyamitta Troxy

    i personnly think thatpeople who sit cofees and forget about reading books and spending time in liberaries instaid are just wasting a prescions time of thier life and miss a good oportunity to enlight themselves and feed their souls….
    finally it is amaaaaaazing article tbarkllah 3lik

  • Sarah Brewster

    oh yes I remember it so well. The rows upon rows of grey men making me feel quite uncomfortable, daring me to come and sit in their midst. And indeed they are there to escape their domestic situations, marriages which are trying to come into the 21st century but arent able to, kids who are demanding the latest designer clothes and also straining against the culture of their parents. I have experienced many teachers who brandish their 2 home, 2 car, 5 tv, iphone, ipad ilifestyles unyet never seem to have meaningful relationships with their family…

  • Ibtissam EL Houdaifi

    that article was really something , it’s great , and meaningful ,it really blew me away , nice work =)

  • Jaky Lee Hart

    I am blown away, it’s amazing …

  • Salah Eddine

    Reading arenas have always been obsolete … Reading is not part of the culture anyways … The transmission of culture throughout generations has always been done mainly orally …. It’s always been an oral culture … but at least its content used to be much more interesting than nowadays … it’s quite easy discern some of the factors that impoverished the quality of the content.

  • Olasri

    The article was an underlying topic which our society has tested in the last 5 years or more, simultaneously, me as moroccan member have no other shelter than coffees, libraries is far-fetched in some deprived villages, Many thanks Mr.Hassan

    • Habib Jellai

      to me you sound you are just a lazy person who would not make any efforts to enlighten yourself …enjoy ignorance

  • Mary Mimouna

    Excellent article. Compare this with the attitude toward reading in a country like Iceland:

    “Oh, Professor Lidenbrock, they’re all over the country (speaking about Iceland’s library books). On Our old icy island people are fond of study. There isn’t a single farmer or fisherman who can’t read and doesn’t read. We believe that books, instead of mouldering behind an
    iron grating, far from inquisitive gazes, should be worn out under the eyes of a great many readers. Consequently these volumes are passed from one person to another, and often return to their shelves only after an absence of a year or two.”

    –from “A Journey to the Center of the Earth,” by Jules Verne, p. 63-64. Published
    by Penguin Popular Classics, 1994. (first published in 1864)

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