Category Archives: Morocco

Tangiers: Medina

Extract from Burgess’s novel of Tangiers, Enderby Outside (1968):

Tangiers sounded like just the sort of place a man of Rawcliffe’s type would end up in. Moorish catamites. Drinking himself to death. Drinking was too slow a process.

His true place was that Kasbah, high up at the end of the town, where beggars slept at night in the doorways of shark shops, all Rif rifles from the iron-founding Midlands.

Up there the white huddled Medina on the hill, once watchful of the sea-invaders. Blood and buggery, the Koranic cry of teeth as the scimitar slashed. And now a pretty cram of stucco for the visiting painter. Donkeys, palms, the odd insolent Cadillac with a sneering wealthy young Moor in dark glasses. This bilious sea. There were not, thank Allah, many police about and, in any case, they did not greatly molest beggars.

‘Give him something, George, go on. Poor old man.’

And the plebeian tourist, in open-necked shirt and double-breasted town suit, handed Enderby a tiny clank of centimes. His wife, growing a lobster colour that was vulgarly Blackpool, smiled in pity. Enderby bowed and allahed.

It was really surprising what you could pick up on this game — handfuls of small tinkle that often added up to well over a dirham, filthy torn notes that the donors probably thought carried plague, the absurd largesse of holiday drunks. He was eating, if not sleeping, well on it all. Arab bread with melon-and-ginger confiture, yummiyum couscous (better than Easy Walker’s), fowl-hunks done with saffron, thin veal-shives in a carraway sauce — all at a quiet fly-buzzing incurious shop near the little Souk or Succo, one that had, moreover, a Western WC instead of a hazardous wog crouch-hole. He was also drinking a fair quantity of mint-tea, good for his stomach.



Tangiers and the comeuppance of Mr Lodge

The first time Burgess and his wife Lynne visited Tangiers, it was as part of a Mediterranean package tour. The couple were joined by

a decent middle-class herd of meagre drinkers and unadventurous eaters.

Their dragoman was a Mr Lodge,

who put on a little woolly cap like Dr Spindrift’s so that he might be identifiable to his flock when he led them through mobs of redolent pickpockets and bottom-pinchers.

One day, Lynne was slow in boarding the airport bus, and

Mr Lodge publicly rebuked her.

Big mistake. The opportunity arose for Burgess to pay Mr Lodge back for his insolence.


Burgess writes that his wife Lynne

felt very ill and was plainly exhausted when we reached Marrakesh. The French proprietress of the Hôtel Maroc blamed her sickness on the cuisine espagnole. I drank heavily and alone in the hotel bar. In our bedroom I found a young Berber in a striped waistcoat preparing to get into bed with Lynne and arguing about how much she was willing to pay for his services. An American lady, he alleged, had given him five hundred dirhams. He had to be punched and thrown out by a weary husband. There was no repose on any of our holidays.


Burgess writes in his autobiography that Tangiers was

all junkies and pederasts.

He confesses to carnal longing:

I would have liked to seize one of these kohl-eyed houris in a yashmak and kiss her from her neat brown ankles up.

Morocco: Burgess and the pederasts

Burgess writes in the novel Enderby Outside:

Pashas and the Beni-Ouarain and camels. Mulai Hafid and Abd-el-Kadir. The light-coloured Sherifians, who claim descent from the Prophet. Palmetto and sandarach and argan and tizra. Leopards here, bears, hyenas and wild pigs. Bustard, partridge and waterfowl. Dromedaries and dashing Barbary horses.

Tangiers, Burgess points out,

once belonged to the British — part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza, Portuguese queen of a merry monarch. A pleasant enough town, no longer very distinguished, with some deplorable specimens of architecture. The beach is deserted. This is not the tourist season and, besides, it is the hour of the siesta. The beach cafés are garish, the paint peeling on many, but some of their names are rather charming. The Winston Churchill, the Sun Trap, the Cuppa, the Well Come.

Those Hebrew letters

mean kosher. It is three consonants, the Semitic languages not greatly favouring the alphabetisation of vowels. Arabic too is a Semitic language and is similarly vowel-shy. Why then do not the Jews and Arabs, aware of a common origin in speech and alphabetic method as well as genes, taboos and mythology, get on better together? There you have the eternal mystery of brotherhood. As Blake might have said, Let me hate him, or let me be his brother.

In Tangiers, Burgess explains,

you have expatriates of Northern stock, water to the oil of the Moors and Berbers and Spaniards. Many of them have fled their native lands to escape the rigour of the law. Yes, alas, crimes. Expropriation of funds, common theft, sexual inversion. The term means nothing more than philoprogenitive urges deflected into channels that possess no generative significance.

And among the exiles from the North

are artists, musicians, writers. They have sinned, but they have talent. Desperately they exercise their talent here, dreaming of bitter ale and meadowsweet but cut off for ever, yes for ever, from the Piccadilly flyover and the Hyde Park State Museum and the Communal Beerhall on Hammersmith Broadway. Those are the British. The Americans weep too nightly into their highballs for the happy shopping evenings in the Dupermarket, the drive-in colour stereovideo, the nuclear throb of the fully automated roadglobe. But they practise their arts. It is writers mostly. Up that hill lives a man who has already produced 25 volumes of autobiography: he tears at each instant of his pre-exilic past as though it were a prawn. Another man, on the Calle Larache, eats into his unconscious heart and mounts the regurgitated fragments on fragments of old newspaper. Another man again writes sneering satire, in sub-Popean couplets, on an England already dead. They are small artists, all.

There is in the town

a rue Beethoven, also an avenida Leonardo da Vinci, a plaza de Sade. But no artist here will have a square or thoroughfare named for him. They are nothing. And yet think what, on three sides, surrounds them, though the fierce Atlantic will give a right orchestration to the muscularity of what, to the sun’s own surprise, has sprung out of sunbaked Africa and Iberia. The glory of the Lusiads and the stoic bravery and heartbreak of the Cid, and the myth of Juan and the chronicle of the gaunter Don on the gaunt horse. Clash of guitars up there and the drum-roll of hammering heels in the dance, and down there the fever of native timpani. And, east, the tales told to the cruel Sultan Shahriyar, and the delicate verse-traceries of Omar this and Abdul that and Sayid the other thing.

Burgess and Mohammedanism

Burgess, who in the late 1950s flirted with conversion to Islam, wrote in 1989:

The old opposition was between the Free World, so-called, and the Communist world. But now Marxism is seen as an out-of-date philosophy based on 19th-century materialism, and the new Europe, which means the overseas Anglophone world as well as the polyglot Continent, will be, if not Judaeo-Christian, at least liberal and humanistic and nostalgic for some kind of faith. The opposition to this will not be atheistic Communism but fundamentalist Islam. Islam cannot be absorbed into the new comity. I foresee its becoming more and more intolerant and also militant. We are going back to the Middle Ages.

Enderby at the Teatro Cervantes

Extract from Enderby Outside (1968):

Enderby climbed to the top of the low wall by means of an empty Coca-Cola crate and a couple of broken-brick toeholds. He dropped easily, though panting, over the other side. It was an alley he was in now, and this led to a street. The street went downhill and led to other streets. If you kept going down all the time you eventually came to the Avenue d’Espagne, which looked at the plage. That dog place was down there, not far from the Hotel Rif.

It was very steep. Enderby teetered past a crumbling theatre called the Miguel de Cervantes then, finding that the next turning seemed to take him some way uphill again, tried a dark and leafy passage which went unequivocally down. Here a little Moorish girl cried when she saw him, and a number of house-dogs started to bark. But he went gamely on, supporting himself by grasping at broken fences. Precipitous: that was the word. At last he emerged from the barking dark, finding himself on a street where a knot of Moorish boys in smart suits called to him:

‘You want boy, Charlie?’

‘You very hot want nice beer.’

‘For cough,’ said Enderby, in no mood for foreign nonsense, and a boy riposted with:

‘You fuck off too, English fuckpig.’

Enderby didn’t like that. He knew that this place had once belonged to the English, part of Charles II’s Portuguese queen’s dowry. It was not right that he should be addressed like that. But another boy cried:

‘You fucking German. Kaput heilhitler.’

And another:

‘Fucking Yankee motherfucker. You stick chewing-gum up fucking arse.

That showed a certain ingenuity of invective. They were very rude boys, but their apparently indifferent despication of foreigners was perhaps a healthy sign, stirring in sympathy a limp G-string in his own nature. He nodded at them and, more kindly, said once more:

‘For cough.’

They seemed to recognise his change of tone, for they merely pronged two fingers each in his direction, one or two of them emitting a lip-fart. Then they started to playfight, yelping, among themselves. Enderby continued his descent, coming soon to a hotel-and-bar on his left called Al-Djenina. The forecourt had bird cages in it, the birds all tucked up for the night, and Enderby could distinctly see, through the long bar-window, middle-aged men drunk and embracing each other. Those would, he thought, be expatriate writers. He was, of course, one of those himself now, but he was indifferent to the duties and pleasures of sodality. He was on his own, waiting. He had written, though. He was working on things. The wind from the sea upheld him as he tottered to level ground. Here it was then: the Avenue d’Espagne, as they called it.

Hotel Rif, Tangiers

From Burgess’s 1968 novel Enderby Outside:

It was necessary that he stay near Rawcliffe’s beach-place, not to let his quarry slip out of his tan-polished hands. It was not windy now, but it was not warm. Autumnal Morocco. He could doze, all hunched up, in the shadow of the Acantilado Verde. In the morning he could drink coffee and eat a piece of bread (there was a dirham or so still in his pocket) and then, an eye open for Rawcliffe, get down to begging. There was a lot of begging here: no shame in it. There were a couple of rich hotels near the Acantilado Verdethe Rif and the Miramar: good begging pitches.

Hotel Velázquez Palace, Tangiers

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-20-53-26The Hotel Velázquez Palace is where Burgess and his wife Lynne stayed on their second trip to Tangiers. They were on a Mediterranean air tour (Burwash-Gatwick-Jersey-Seville-Marrakesh-Tangiers-Tenerife-Gatwick-Etchingham).

Whereas the Hotel Miramar, where they had stayed on their first visit, is on the Tangiers seafront, the Velázquez Palace is up the hill, round the corner from the Gran Teatro Cervantes, and much nearer the casbah.

Lynne had suffered a collapse and appears to have been confined to bed at their room at the hotel, suffering from exhaustion and food poisoning. Tangiers was — possibly still is — known as Sodom-on-Sea, and in You’ve Had Your Time, Being the Second Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess, Burgess explains that at the Velázquez Palace, ’despite her sickness, Lynne’s sharp eyes (sa-rupa pisau*) searched for signs of pederastic inclinations in myself’.

William Burroughs appeared at the hotel and read Jane Austen to Lynne (just as he had done at the Miramar).

* Malay, lit. ‘knife-like’

Hotel Miramar, Tangiers

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-21-43-25Burgess writes in You’ve Had Your Time, Being the Second Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess: ‘In the Miramar Hotel, Lynne lay in bed while I incessantly rolled cigarettes of adulterated kif for her. William Burroughs would read funereally Jane Austen to her as she lay. His cured junkie heart homed to Regency stability.’

Enderby finds that the Miramar is one of ‘a couple of rich hotels near the Acantilado Verde’ — the other being the Rif— that are ‘good begging pitches’. (He operates successfully as a beggar for a time.)

Opposite the Miramar is a taxi-stand from which the Turkish Delight commercial doorman whistles for a taxi to come over.