Nine Questions for ...

Nadine Müseler on Rabat: “Café Weimar – the City’s Hippest Place”

Copyright: Goethe-Institut Morocco
Street artists are popular in Rabat (Photo: Goethe-Institut Morocco)

8 March 2012

In Morocco, enthusiasm for street theatre is high, as is the illiteracy rate. It is a tough place for people in the arts. Nonetheless, Rabat is now seeing the upsurge of a young, lively, and critical arts scene. Nadine Müseler, an employee at the Goethe-Institut, talks about art and everyday life in Morocco.

What is the most beautiful part of Rabat?

Müseler: The Art Deco and the Bauhaus style buildings are a genuine delight to the eyes. But the medieval sites like the Medina of Rabat and the Kasbah of the Udayas are also great. They are right on the seaside, across from the former pirate city of Salé. In addition, the former Roman settlement outside the city walls, Chellah, is beautiful.

Copyright: istock
Narrow lanes in Rabat’s old town (Photo: istock)

What cultural delight do the people of Rabat indulge in most?

Over the past two years, the young scene in Rabat has discovered “Dabatheatr.” This multidisciplinary group of theatre, dance and film artists and bloggers looks critically at current events in North Africa. An event is held every month. The audience is so large that the hall fills twice in a row on some nights. The most visited events, though, are the classical concerts at Theatre Mohamed V. Of course, it is the upper middle class which mainly indulges in this delight. It remains a challenge to convey the arts as a cultural delight. The fact is that many people of Rabat do not seek out the arts deliberately. But at least they are open to them.

Copyright: private
Müseler: “I was never so aware of the nostalgia for flavours” (Photo: private)

What German book are people in Rabat familiar with?

The average Moroccan spends one dirham a year on books – that’s about ten cents. According to UNESCO statistics, the illiteracy rate in the country is about one third of the total population. Of course, in the big cities of Rabat and Casablanca things look different. But, it’s very rare that Moroccans tell me about German books. Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse may be one of the exceptions to this.

What Moroccan writers should we be reading?

Off the top of my head I’d say Fatima Mernissi, Kita El Khayat and Youssouf Amine Elalami. The travel reports by Paul Bowles are also worth reading. But, all of these books are far easier to come by in Europe than in Morocco. Book sales do not always function here as we would expect.

Who comes to the Goethe-Institut?

In addition to very many young Moroccans who are learning German in order to study in Germany, there are also many creative people, Moroccan officials, and businesspeople. And tourists who have made our Café Weimar their favourite place. In Lonely Planet it’s described as the “hippest place” in Rabat and I truly meet many Moroccans on my travels who tell me about our café with a great deal of enthusiasm. Why? You’ll understand why as soon as you’ve been here once...

Copyright: Nadine Müseler
At the entrance to the Goethe-Institut, visitors are greeted by the Hörbar with the latest German-language music (Photo: Nadine Müseler)

Who does not?

Hard to say. The audience is very mixed. There appears to be really no inhibition threshold, but only many good reasons to come here. That’s a stroke of luck for our work and the Goethe-Institut.

What topic is currently the most hotly debated in the Rabat press?

There are not many controversial topics in the daily press. Page one continues to report on the changes in the country, on places that are dedicated by the king every day and of course the work of the new parliament.

What do you look forward to most when you come to Germany?

To German food and most of all vegetables that we don’t get here in Morocco like kohlrabi, cabbage, spinach, savoy cabbage. I was never so aware of the nostalgia for flavours one grew up with. Otherwise, I look forward to the many arts venues in Germany, of course, to new input for my work, and to my parents and friends who I don’t see very often.

What do you look forward to when you are back in Rabat?

To the fragrance of Africa, the beautiful light, the blue sky, to the many nice people, to my work with its daily challenges, and to everyday life in Morocco with its opportunities to always discover new and unknown things.

Gitte Zschoch asked the questions.

Nadine Müseler, 33, was born in Cologne and studied art history, modern German literature and urban development. She worked for the television programme Kulturzeit, as well as for art galleries, film distributors and PR agencies in Germany and abroad. In 2008-09 she participated in the trainee programme of the Goethe-Institut and is now responsible for programming, public relations, large-scale projects and third party funding in Rabat and Casablanca.
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