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"More at home than I realised in Morocco"

ON TOUR: Dotun Adebayo (right) and his wife Carroll Thompson on their trip to Morocco

WHO WOULD have thought that Morocco was to become the destination of choice for black Brits (like comedian and broadcaster Eddie Nestor, who was also there last week) wishing to dip a tentative toe in the great ‘dark’ continent from whence they are continuously reminded that they originate, but from which they are increasingly alienated in the great black race to be whiter and whiter for every generation?

As you can imagine, then, it was with some alarm that I welcomed my wife, Queen of Lovers Rock Carroll Thompson’s, command to “Pack your bags, D, we’re going to Marrakech”.

“Marra.... isn’t that in Morocco..?”

“Yes. Which is in Africa. The children need some African sunshine... not this dibbi-dibbi summer that we’ve been enduring here. Pack your bags –now!”

No, my wife does not quite talk like that. Not to me, anyway. Except on this one occasion. I’m going to ‘llow it this one time as it’s summer, the season of fun-fun-fun, and she’s full-up of pure jokes when she gives me the old 'Pack up your bags – now!'.

I mean, it’s not like I’m afraid of Africa. Even though there’s every reason to be frightened. There’s every reason for you to stay in your safe European home if you are not tallawah. Africa is not for the weak-hearted. You need a strong back to survive in our ancestral homeland. Why otherwise do you think the good Lord gave us strength to see through our tribulation? Do you not remember the days of slavery, when they beat us and they worked us so hard and they used us and abused us?

Do you remember the days of bravery – back in the 1970s, '80s and '90s when they used us and they abused us and yet we stood up strong and de ant so that we could make this country great again?

Yeah, we’re strong for a reason and that reason is to be able to visit our homeland one of these fine days without running back to England in panic with our shirt back full of wind.

But while we are getting our mindsets used to the idea that we are still African, despite all our years and tears in Europe, Morocco is a happy halfway house. It’s not even that ‘blick’ – if ya know what I mean.

DEPORTED

Yet, I was annoyed at my wife’s choice of the country of Berbers and Nomads (rhymes nicely with my gonads) and Touaregs. Because the last time I was in Morocco, more than 30 years ago, I got deported for no reason whatsoever.

Essentially, I was the victim of a racist passport controller who wanted to ensure that no black Africans entered the country through the port of his jurisdiction, which was Tangiers. This was back in the mid-'80s. Back when you done know already that it was just me and a couple other yutes that were brave enough to trod the world while black. What’s more, I was trodding the Earth on a Nigerian passport, which was like saying: “I am a dalek, I am a dalek. Exterminate! Exterminate!”

Back in those days, border guards told you to your face that they didn’t want your kind in their country and they were going to do everything in their power to prevent you from entering (as you may already know from previous editions of this column, or you will learn in future ones, I had this experience, of course, every time I returned to the UK, and also on the Greek side of the border with the former Yugoslavia, where one racist border controller had the temerity to throw me into a disgustingly filthy prison cell for the ‘audacity’ of entering Greece through ‘his’ particular border post).

The racist who accosted me on the ferry from Algeciras to Tangiers more than 30 years ago didn’t give a fig about the fact that I was the only person on board who had a visa to enter the country. All he kept saying to me was:
“Jusq’ua Tangiers, jusq’ua Tangiers”, which loosely translated is: “You are a dalek, you are a dalek. Exterminate! Exterminate!”

And just before you ask how I can be so sure he was a racist rather than a character from Doctor Who, well, there was only one other black guy on board – he had a British passport, but he may as well have been a dalek as he accompanied me back to Algeciras.

Because of this racist experience, I have carried an irrational grudge against all things Moroccan for more than 30 years now. I have studiously avoided Maroc oranges or supporting their fabulous middle and long-distance runners in the Olympics or their national team in the World Cup.

But when I arrived in Marrakech, my prejudice could not have been more irrational. From the moment I arrived, I swept my Britishness under the carpet and bigged up my Nigerianness.

UNITY

The driver from the airport touched fists and declared for African pride and unity within minutes. As did everybody else I met. Moroccans are actually the nicest people, with a twinkle in their eyes when they realise you are “one of them”. No doubt my big-time tips made a difference.

Like in so many places, it’s not the people who are racist, but the authorities. Or one particular person in authority. Which is a liberty for a country dependent on tourist cash. Which, as we know, has no racial colour.

Word of warning, though, ladies – if you are going to join the pilgrimage to Marrakech, make sure you wear your wig/weave tight, cos you don’t wanna be the black British woman who had to endure a (wo)man-handling of her Vietnamese black hair by an over-zealous security guard looking for the iron making the metal detector beep. Talk about unbeweavable treatment.

Dotun Adebayo is Britain’s most listened-to black radio talk show host. He presents Up All Night on BBC Radio 5 live Thursdays through Sundays on 909/693 MW, The Sunday Night Special on BBC 94.9FM and Reggae Time on BBC London 94.9FM on Saturday evenings. Tune in if you’re ranking!

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