Behind the beaded curtain - Tangier Bars.

A foray into some of Tangier’s sleazy dives

Lumen found herself with a couple of hours to spare in Tangier last Sunday evening and decided to check out some of the more interesting bars. Diane had a dream of smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer in such a place, having once met William S. Burroughs at Alan Ginsberg’s apartment in New York
Ricky made the perfect guide: with a house in nearby Asilah, he’s had plenty of time over the years to explore the nether regions of the city. One of the last people to meet Paul Bowles before the author’s death, Ricky first guided us to Dean’s Bar, an old hang-out of the Bowles set.
There’s a sign above the door that says it dates from 1937. Pushing aside the wooden beaded curtain revealed a dim and smoky bar with men sitting around it on stools. It was like stepping back all those 70 years. In the back room a few men were watching a match on TV. This and the Real Madrid football posters on the walls were the only concessions to the new millennium. Oum Kaltoum sang out plaintively from the bar area, the lights were low, and the waiter in waistcoat and flat cap brought beers and tapas. Diane cadged a cigarette from one of the patrons and sank back happily into her black leatherette chair.

Yet another beaded curtain revealed the Pi-lo bar, not that you’d ever find a sign to say that’s its name. The bar was crowded with people. Every inch of wall space is covered in paintings, from kitsch girls with puppies to huge landscapes. One wall is hung with an embroidered tinselly cloth surrounded by plastic flowers. Tables are covered with red satin cloths full of cigarette burns, more artfully draped red satin curtains adorn the blacked-out windows and screechy Berber music fills the air. The people were cheerful and friendly, interested to see foreign women in such a male-dominated place.
More beers and more tapas – good ones, rice salad, tomato and cucumber salad, spicy chickpeas and chicken livers, and beers only Dh15 each. Just then a curious face peered round the corner – one of the girls from the upstairs bar, resplendent in gauzy pink chiffon with gold trim. No doubt she’d heard there were strange women downstairs and had to see for herself, just to make sure … but she soon saw she didn’t need to worry about losing her customers, and went back upstairs.

When things heated up Lumen made her exit