an espresso in marrakech and the randomness of birth


As I sat in one of the many cafés to be found near the central Jamaa el Fna [ساحة جامع الفناء] square in Marrakech, I watched as the locals sat, chatted about the latest news, and slowly enjoyed their espressos, nous nous, and cafés au lait as the hours passed.

This is exactly what I do in New York, particularly at Caffé Dante in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Being at Dante is my version of “Any Given Sunday.” The juxtaposition of the two experiences made me think about the randomness of birth.

Had I been born in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, for example, given my innate attraction to urban centers I would most likely have migrated to one of Morocco’s bigger cities such as Fes, Casablanca or Marrakech, and I would be one of those men at the café in Marrakech. My socioeconomic reality would have most likely prevented me from migrating to a larger city outside of Morocco, at least for a while. But that wasn’t the case for me.

I was born within a few hours’ drive from New York City and thus enjoy my lattes and people watching from my outdoor chair on MacDougal Street. Instead of cous cous and tagine, I am surrounded by burgers and cheap mexican food.

At any given moment there are millions of people sipping lattes and espressos in various cafés around the globe. It is only by the randomness of birth that their locations are determined.