The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
In the sixties, Sefrou had one movie theater, the Maghrib el Arabi, but it was great! On a hot summer night, the roof would retract, slowly and almost silently, and the cool evening air would pour in from a sky full of stars. I went to the movies whenever I could. I loved films, and, frankly, how many things could you do in a small provincial city where almost everyone went home to their families at night, tired from a day’s hard work? Not that the theater was an entirely respectable place. Now, whenever I watch the Italian movie, Cinema Paradiso, I’m always reminded of Sefrou, its movie theater, and the people I knew.
In those days the choice of films was mostly between Bollywood musicals and spaghetti westerns. Occasionally there was an Egyptian feature, beyond the comprehension of someone already struggling with Moroccan dialect, and, sometimes, a recent American movie, and sometimes a classic. I remember watching High Noon, which for me was iconic and for my colleague puzzling, and, In the Heat of the Night, a contemporary drama about the civil rights struggle in the American South. The big cities had a much better choice of films. I saw Space Odyssey 2001 in the Theatre Mohammed V, not long after the film opened in the U.S. Needless to say, the Western movies were always dubbed in French.
But that was Rabat. In Sefrou, I still remember hearing, through the front windows of the house, the sounds of young men walking home through the empty street at night, a darkened medina street lit by an occasional street light, whistling the theme music from A Fist Full of Dollars (https://youtu.be/9uFlE1cO8Fc), and knowing they enjoyed it, but also wondering what they made of it. It was certainly more a part of their America than mine.
2 thoughts on “Al Maghrib Al-Arabi”
Thanks, Dave. I lived in three villages, Zoumi near Ouezanne, Sidi Yahia des Zaers near Temara, and Souk Tlata de Beni Sidel near Nador, between fall 1967 and fall 1970. They were too small to have movie theaters so I occasionally saw a movie in a city. I recall seeing West Side Story. It was in English with French subtitles, and I loved seeing how they translated the American slang into French.
A great article, Dave. It brought back many happy memories. Unfortunately, that movie theater no longer exists. It has been converted into a miserable cafe, because of the internet and film piracy. This is also the case for many cinemas in Morocco (many of them have shut down). Speaking of Space Odyssey, I saw this movie in cinema Empire in Fez with our late friend Gaylord, may he rest in peace.