A ONE ACT PLAY
Time: Spring 2013
Characters : Ms. Sarah Rheinhartd: an American Biologist
Ms. Hagar Ibrahim: A Moroccan Professor of Literature
Mr. Samir Youcef: Musician
Thursday 8:00 p.m, Hall of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Casablanca
(End of a conference by a Multinational in Pharmaceutical Industry)
Sarah: Excuse Ms Ibrahim! I would like to tell you I highly appreciated your conference on Morocco. I’m Jewish and I was quite astonished to hear you talk about the Jewish people in such positive terms.
Hagar: Well, my conference dealt with the Moroccan cultural history and Jews are part of that history, isn’t it normal that I speak about ALL the components of my culture.
Sarah: I’m sorry, I was under the impression that Arabs hated Jews.
Hagar: Ms Reinhardt, in this country we, Jews and Muslims, grew up in the same neighborhoods sharing everything and so did our parents and grandparents. Hatred is brewed by politics.
Sarah: I see. Is there a synagogue in Casablanca?
Hagar: (Smiling) A synagogue? No! Not one. There are several synagogues in Casablanca.
Hagar: When are you flying back to New York?
Sarah: I’m leaving Tuesday Morning.
Hagar: Great! Today is Thursday, I’m going to call Deborah and David, my Moroccan Jewish friends; I’m sure they will be glad to invite you for a Moroccan Shabbat tomorrow .We can then have lunch together on Sunday and I’ll tell you all about our city. How is that?
Sarah: Well this sounds great! I thank you so much. I’m sorry I know so little about your country. Can I call you Hagar?
Hagar: Of course Sarah! I’ll come get you at the hotel Sunday at twelve.
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. at the Rick’s Café
Sarah: Oh My God! The Rick’s café really exists in Casablanca!
Hagar: It does exist but not since 1942. It was created, based on the Hollywood film, by an American diplomat in 2004.
(Sarah and Hagar are shown to their table by a waiter dressed in a Moroccan fashion)
Sarah: Wow, the setting really makes you flash back to the forties and to the film.!
Hagar: Well, this is exactly what Ms K.K., the owner, wants people to feel in her restaurant. She spent a lot of time and money on details such as reproducing the lamp stands, finding a pianist named Sam (Samir), having an ongoing projection of the film Casablanca, in order to restitute to the café, the mythical atmosphere of the film. She was lucky to find and restore a traditional Moroccan house not far from the old Medina, which was at the time, the center of Casablanca.
Sarah: Fascinating! The romance of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman set in a WWII background, is for us American the only image of Casablanca. I’m glad you give the myth a touch of reality by bringing me to a Real Rick’s Café. I am also eager to hear more about your city and you promised to talk to me about it..
Hagar: Yes I did but now I feel like the Ancient Mariner. So much to say! Romance and history do not talk of the “side effects” of war. 1942! The same year Michael Curtiz produced the so famous love film, an American British coalition (The Torch Operation) decided to bombard the port of Casablanca, colonized then by the French Vichy government. The coalition bombers missed the port and bombed the peopled Medina. But who talks about the innocent Moroccan victims who, neither asked to be colonized by a pro-Nazi France, nor bombed by an Anglo-Saxon coalition?
Sarah: Oh My God! What was the purpose of the bombardment?
Hagar: They wanted to destroy the Pro-Nazi French navy in Casablanca. The Germans retaliated by bombing the structures of the port in order to destroy the American fuel tanks and material. Another bombardment! American GIs then landed and occupied Moroccan coastal cities. My mother used to tell me about the new goods and customs brought by Americans to Morocco: Chewing gum, chocolate bars, coca-cola, cigarettes. She also said “better not be a beautiful girl wandering in the streets!” Fortunately, a year later in January 1943, The Casablanca Conference with Roosevelt, Churchill, De Gaulle and Mohammed V, King of Morocco planned the Normandy landing in the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca,.
Sarah: You mean that big decision was taken here?
Hajar: Yes Sarah! And the name Casablanca had something to do with the way the Germans were deceived. Casablanca was talked about as The white House (from its Portuguese name: La Casa Blanca) and the Germans thought the conference was held in Washington. And that’s how WWII was put to an end by the landing in Normandy, kept secret in Morocco.
Sarah: I Never thought I would learn so much about Casablanca and the world in just a few days.
Hajar: Well, History is a never-ending story. Let’s order our meal
Sarah: anything you recommend?
Hagar: I think you would appreciate the Moroccan salad varieties and a fish tagine. I will take a farm chicken with olives and lemon tagine, so you can also taste another typical Moroccan dish. And, how was your stay with my friends Deborah and David?
Sarah: Oh Hagar, you cannot imagine how great that experience was for me. I am so thankful to you. We spent Shabbat together and we had a delicious dish of meat, yams, chick peas, and whole wheat. A marvel!
Hajar: Yes it is called Dafina or Skhina and it is a typical Jewish dish for Moroccan Shabbat. It is cooked all night at low heat in an oven.
Sarah: And we went to pray in a very beautiful Synagogue
Hagar: The Beth El Synagogue?
Sarah: Yes! You’re Muslim and you know the Synagogue?
Hagar: Well yes! I was there for a tribute to Simon Levy after his death in 2012
Sarah: Simon Levy?
Hagar: Yes a great Moroccan Jewish scholar who sold his own property in Fes for the restoration of a Synagogue and created the Moroccan Jewish Museum in Casablanca. A very much loved and respected personality and, a good friend of mine who used to call me “the American” because of my American accent. So you did enjoy your encounter with David and Deborah!
Sarah: I sure did! And I learned somuch about the Moroccan Jewish Sefaradi traditions Debora and David also took me out for a tour of Casablanca.
(Waiter comes with the salads)
Sarah: Wow! Impressive set of salads
Hagar: wait till you taste them.
Sarah: (A few minutes later) Delicious! So many different tastes
Hagar: enjoy! Well, talking about Casablanca, this city has had different names through history. It s original Name is Anfa which means ‘the hill’ in Amazigh, the original language in Morocco. For centuries, it had been a corsairs’ harbor until it got bombarded by the Portuguese in 1468. Before the French started building the port directly on the sea in 1907, Casablanca presented a very savage, black rocky coast. No ship could approach it directly. In the 14th century, a ship carrying a Tunisian Scholar and his wife wrecked near that inhospitable coast. The man, Sidi Allal al Karawani was saved by Moroccan fishermen, but his wife died in the wreck. A year later, having left his daughter behind him in Tunisia, the man ordered, that his daughter be sent to him. Unfortunately, she also died in a ship wreck. Her name was Beïda, The white girl. Her father buried her, built a white sanctuary and asked to be buried near his daughter upon his death. The sanctuary was visible from the sea and Portuguese sailors named it La Casa Blanca. So from inside and in Arabic, Dar El Beïda means the House of the White Girl and from outside as seen by Portuguese it was the White House.
Sarah: What a fascinating story! Wonder if Humphrey Bogart knew all this?
Hagar: Ha! Ha! Humphrey Borgart was himself a descendant of Moroccan corsairs. He descended from the Van Salee family in New York who, themselves, descended from Jan Jansen a Dutch renegade Admiral in the early seventeen century, who converted to Islam under the name of Rais Morad and married a Moroccan Amazigh woman.
Sarah: Are you kidding?
Hagar: No! You can check. Everything can be checked today.
Sarah: It’s incredible how we are all linked one way or the other.
Hagar: Yes we are Sarah and I spent my life looking for what links us rather than what separates us. Hey! Here come our fish and chicken tagines.
Sarah: Hum! Itsmells so good Looks like you have a refined cuisine.
Hagar: Our cuisine, like our dressing, handicraft, architecture and more, are related to both our geography and our history. 14 kilometers only separate us through The Detroit of Gibraltar, from Europe. For the Middle East, we are the Far West. The name of Morocco, Maghreb, means the Sunset West. We also are the extreme North West of the African continent. In the North, our coast is bathed by the Mediterranean Sea and, our entire West coast is bathed by the Atlantic. This geography of Morocco has contributed to its history and, it shows in our culture. We have so many different physical types from typically Asian looking to shades of Africans and on the mountains, to some absolute white green or blue-eyed people. The Jewish community fled here over 2000 years ago. The Romans stayed here three hundred years before they started colonizing Europe and before them, we had Phoenicians and Carthaginians on our coasts. Arabs brought Islam in the seventh century. I can talk to you for hours about the numerous prints of the different civilizations that came to this country. However, the culture and language of the original population, the Imazighen is well alive and has incorporated all the incoming civilizations. That’s why the best way to describe anything in Morocco is mosaic. How is your Fish tagine?
Sarah: It’s a wonder; Such a subtle mixture of flavors!
Hagar: Would you like to taste the Chicken?
Sarah: Well yes! … Hum! Different combination of tastes. Different spices. Excellent!
Hagar: I’m glad you enjoy. Hey! Here comes Samir! Are you going to play it again Sam?
Sam(ir): Yes Ma’am!
Music : As Time goes By