Coming off a job loss, Abderrahemane Nejjam sees his hometown of Tangier, Morocco, through a different lens.
Hustle culture has engrained itself in every part of our lives. No matter your age or profession, you have likely felt the effects of hustle plaguing your consciousness.
Whether it’s the guilt that comes from taking a lazy Sunday or the pressure to monetise your favourite hobby, it is getting harder and harder to disconnect from the noise and take time for yourself.
I have never felt this pressure more than when I was suddenly laid off from a dream job in mid-2021. Pressed to make ends meet and devoid of my identity, I beat myself up harder than ever in the name of hustle.
In the following weeks of repetitive job interviews that led to dead ends, I went out and about in my hometown of Tangier, Morocco, nearly every day. These outings were a chance to view my city in a way that I have never seen it before. And with more time to spare, I had the opportunity to study the faces of people in the streets.
Although I knew where Tangier’s streets led by heart, I realised I never knew its people. Oddly enough, this was the first time I noticed Tangier’s humans instead of its architecture.
Initially, I felt bitter toward them. I was envious that these people were nonchalant, walking around without a worry in the world. I told myself they were lucky since they didn’t have to worry about finding a job or building passive income sources.
This resentment became self-doubt. It was painfully obvious that my way of life couldn’t be any different than theirs despite the fact I was a native Tangerian. In a way, I felt like a foreigner in my native city.
Doubt transformed into jealousy, and then curiosity. I questioned how these people could afford to sleep in, work for a few hours, then go out to their local cafe and play Parcheesi with their friends. Meanwhile, I was worried about implementing the latest productivity hack.
I was determined to uncover the secrets Tangier’s people lived by. From careful observations about the women haggling with shop owners for the best price to scientific studies like how year-around, high-humidity weather affects energy levels, I was solving the mystery piece-by-piece.
Interestingly, I wasn’t the only person who has taken this journey. Years ago, famous artists like Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, and the Rolling Stones spent hours of their days aimlessly wandering around Tangier searching for the same answer. Even modern-day figures like Yves Saint Laurent, Malcolm Forbes, and Mashrou Leila took solace in these northern ports.
While I made some discoveries in my curiosity-fueled research, the answer did not make sense. After all, if true mental bliss came from damp weather and mid-day naps, then the entire world would be taking advantage.
Then, in a sudden moment, I realised how Tangier’s people truly disconnect from life.
Near a Tangierien landmark appropriately called Terrace of the Lazy, I was hanging out with a couple of friends at a cafe, weeks after being laid off. Still without a job, I expressed my empty frustrations about the economy and job market. Like all good friends, they comforted me about my ordeals and attempted to sweeten the sour mood.
As we spent the evening sipping mint tea, staring at the ocean while the wind gently blew, and laughing our worries away, I found my answer.
I realised I was approaching this subject from the wrong perspective. Tangier isn’t a city that magically makes you disconnect from the noise; it only promotes this lifestyle through its many qualities. It is an ideal combination of supportive characteristics and a stimulating environment that seed this unique capacity.
Tangier’s people have the proper culture, gastronomy, and weather to help them fight against hustle culture and productivity anxiety, but it isn’t a source of calm mental space. For example, a stroll around the medina’s maze-like roads shifts your mind to think about the architecture and the atmosphere instead of your worries.
Admittedly, this realisation isn’t enough to quell hustle culture entirely, as I still continue to struggle with phases of productivity anxiety. However, I know that regardless of how tough life gets, I have the people around me and Tangier to fall back on, refresh, and get back on track again.
There is this song by Billy Joel called “Vienna Waits for You.” In it, Joel cautions against rushing through life and advises the listener to slow down and remember that, if all else fails, Vienna is always waiting for them.
While I may never get the chance to visit Vienna and experience Joel’s precise words, I know that in Tangier, Morocco, I will always have a place that pushes me to disconnect and breathe. A place that is my Vienna.