Kerry: A Trip Is Just a Trip

Photograph by Everett Collection

Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, and Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca.”

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, John Kerry walks into this one.

Not a gin joint actually, Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca is a movie-themed restaurant (very) loosely inspired by the wartime bar and casino conceived by Hollywood in the 1942 romantic film “Casablanca” starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

 This Rick’s is the creation of former U.S. foreign service officer Kathy Kriger, 67, pictured here, who found an entrepreneurial opportunity in what is now Morocco’s modern commercial capital, of course nothing like the movie’s intrigue-filled wartime refuge.

Kerry, coming off a grand tour of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, dropped in to Rick’s  today before heading to the airport for the flight home to Boston.

Kerry spoke with Kriger while a pianist named Issam played “As Time Goes By.”  The secretary of state shared some pastries with his staff and some U.S. consulate personnel.

Needless to say, Kerry didn’t have to worry about running into the sort of characters in the movie — ex-pats, war refugees, German soldiers, French police, gamblers and a long-lost love.

The 1930s-vintage building, which Kriger renovated in traditional Moroccan “Riad” style a decade ago, mostly draws tourists, including the occasional VIP. Kriger cites the likes of Jennifer Lopez , Sen. Patrick Leahy and most recently the Rev. Jesse Jackson who, she said, was dining with little fanfare until he was recognized.

A veteran of nine years in the foreign service, posted as a commercial counselor in Prague before Casablanca, proprietor Kriger quit shortly after 9/11 to make a statement by committing as an America woman to starting a business in this Muslim nation — and says she used that fact to work her way though a Moroccan bureaucracy that can hinder such entrepreneurship.

Kerry stopped by after meeting with Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, the last official meeting on his two-week trip. Much of the trip was dominated by his failed effort to facillitate a deal between Israelis and Palestinians, an effort that he said today may come to an end.

Still, he’ll always have Jerusalem.

 – Photo of Kathy Kriger by Terry Atlas, reporting from Casablanca

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