He often gets us moving by announcing “Ya la!” (let’s go!). Tahar grew up in the southern coastal city of Agadir, and worked for several years as a disc jockey at clubs in Casablanca. Consequently, he’s got a great selection of music, both Western and Moroccan, that he’s brought along for us to listen to as we drive.
After suffering a bit of temporary hearing loss, Tahar quit his job and became a driver for American movie stars on location in Morocco: he was Oliver Reed’s driver when “Gladiator” was being filmed (“He started drinking at 5:00 in the morning!”), and Heath Ledger’s during the filming of “Four Feathers.”
After we left Rabat this morning, we were driving down the road and Tahar spotted a friend of his in another car, driving an actor to the nearby village of Quaria where Clint Eastwood’s new movie “American Sniper” is being filmed.
Tahar said that he’d been offered the job of being Clint Eastwood’s driver, but turned it down because he was already booked to be ours (are we special or what?). Since we were so close to the action, we decided to drive over to take a look. One of the great advantages of having our own driver like this is that we can make these serendipitous choices and deviations from our itinerary.
When we arrived, we weren’t able to see the actual filming, as locals were crowding around, and it was a bit of a dicey neighborhood, but we did hear a few huge explosions which were hopefully an intentional part of the filming! And it was fascinating to see this location, one of many in Morocco that are chosen for making movies. The movie industry here is referred to as “Mollywood,” and it’s big business.
We stopped for lunch at a roadside stop popular with locals, the Moroccan version of a food court with a series of outdoor seating areas. Rows of steaming tagines (heavy terracotta bowls with tall conical lids) are lined up to choose from, and the chefs are happy to lift the lids for your inspection before you make your choice. Lamb, vegetable, chicken, fish, all smell and taste delicious! Before departing, I wandered along the row of food vendors, and a bearded man asked if I’d like to buy some hashish. I politely declined.
To Westerners, seeing butchered carcasses on display like this might be off-putting. But the government strictly controls the quality of all meat: every piece is examined and certified by veterinarians, and consumed very soon after slaughter. American meat, by comparison, is just not as fresh.