Thursday, July 16, 2009

Nukat* Maghribia - poking fun

As Americans have their Canadians, and the Dutch (and French?) have their Belgians, so the Moroccans have their Berkanis. Every society likes to have a neighbor to make fun of, another group they can have an innocent laugh at without concern for political correctness.

Unlike that of the US or Holland, Morocco’s butt of jokes is not a foreign neighbor; there’s nothing funny about Morocco’s relationship with Algeria, I guess… Instead, all Moroccans laugh about Berkane (pron. ber-CAN), a small town in the Northeast of Morocco.

By now it’s happened so often that I’ve found myself surrounded by Moroccans rolling on the floor in laughter at a new Berkani joke, that I’ve decided to translate and share a few of them with you. It’s often said that humor is very culture-bound, but I think we can all recognize a little of the fun-poking in these jokes. What do you think? Are these funny to you?


Oujda is at war with Berkane. After months of intensive fighting, the two armies have literally dug themselves into a stalemate. The soldiers spend their days laying low in parallel trenches, just hoping the enemy will emerge on the surface in an offensive attempt – so they can shoot them down.
Then, one day, an Oujdi general comes up with a plan. “I’ve got an idea,” he announces. All Berkani’s are called ‘Mimoun’, right? Well, we’re going to use that. Get ready, and wait for my instructions.”
So that morning, the Oujdi soldiers line up in their trench. They listen as the Berkanis do the same in theirs; once they hear that they’ve settled, the Oujdi general gives the signal that this is it. He rises up, and calls out: “Mimoun?” “Yes?” the Berkanis collectively respond, and rise up – upon which the Oujdi’s shoot them all down.
Obviously, the Berkani’s want revenge. The Oujdi’s cannot just get away with this. “Aren’t all Oujdi’s called Bekkay?” the Berkani general rants. “Well, we can do exactly what they did!”
And indeed, the next morning, after all soldiers line up and get ready for another day of stalemate waiting, the Berkani general raises his head out above the trenches and calls out, “Bekkay?” – and waits for the Oujdi soldiers to respond in unison. Instead, he only hears the Oujdi general’s voice: “who’s asking?”
Upon which all Berkani’s rise up, and call out, “we are!”


A guy from Berkane is driving into town. As he approaches the central square, he suddenly realizes his brakes have been severed and he cannot stop the car. Panicked, he calls a friend of his and explains the situation. “What do I do??” he cries out in utter desperation.

His friend is a bit more level headed. “OK,” he reasons. “What do you see in front of you?”

The driver scans the horizon. “I see a market on the left, a mosque on the right, and three people walking on the road in front of me.”

“OK. This is what you’re going to do. You’re going to go in the direction where you’ll hurt the least amount of people,” the friend on the phone advises. So where are you going to go?

“I’m going to head for the three people,” the driver cries.

Later that day, the driver’s friend turns on the television to watch the news. He’s shocked at the main story: a large accident at the market in town, eighty people dead, and massive destruction. On the left end of the screen, he suddenly sees his friend’s car, upside down on the ground. What on earth happened, he wonders? He calls his driver friend.

“What happened? He cries. “I thought you were going to head for the three people on the road?”

“I was,” the driver sobs. “But those three people turned left to head to the market!”

Hole in the road

A major pothole had fallen into a busy road in Berkane. People were constantly falling in, and this was becoming a problem: before anyone noticed what had happened and called an ambulance, the sad victim was already dead. This hole was racking up too many casualties, and it was time to do something about the problem.

All smart people in Berkane got together to talk about possible solutions. It took all day, and lots of bad ideas were proposed, but finally, they came up with a good idea. From now on, they’d station an ambulance next to the hole, so no time would be lost calling the emergency number and waiting for the paramedics to arrive.

The next morning, an ambulance was stationed next to the hole, and every time someone fell in, paramedics would immediately hoist the victim out, load him into the van, and rush him to the hospital.

Yet the new situation wasn’t perfect. Victims were still dying on their way to the hospital. Another solution had to be found, and so all the smarties of Berkane once again convened. They talked, and talked, and it took all day. But finally, someone proposed a real solution. It was a real smart guy, someone who’d gone to school in Europe. We’re going to close up that hole, he said…

… And then we’ll re-dig it right in front of the hospital…

Just one more non-Berkani joke, just for fun:

Once upon a time, a young couple had their first baby. This was clearly an extraordinary child with great intelligence. He spoke his first word at six months of age: “aunt,” he said. His parents found this a bit disconcerting. Shouldn’t his first word be ‘mommy’, or ‘daddy’? Why is he talking about his aunt? The next day, the phone rang. A family member on the other line informed the couple that the baby’s aunt had passed away.

The baby’s next word was “grandpa.” And the same thing happened: only hours after the baby spoke, the couple received a phone call that the baby’s grandpa had passed away.

The parents began to worry about this dark power their baby seemed to have. The pattern continued: every time the baby spoke, he’d mention a person – and a short while after, this person would suddenly and inexplicably die. It was starting to get worrisome.

Then, one day, the baby finally spoke one of the words his parents had so badly wanted to hear: “daddy.” They freaked out – this was it. The baby’s father was paralyzed with fear of his impending death. But the parents’ frantic clamoring was suddenly interrupted by the door bell.

It was their downstairs neighbor, clearly distressed. “Come quick and help!” he cried. “The janitor just dropped dead!”

* Nukat is the plural of nukta, which means 'joke'.

1 comment:

Lucy Withnail said...

Yeah, there was something like this in Jordan about people from a town called Tafileh. When we were coming back from castle of Salah al-Din in Ajloun, my mother and I listened to our taxi driver tell such jokes for about ten minutes straight.
Is there a town like that in the US? Or the Netherlands?