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Although hundreds of thousands of European settlers had been swept out in the 1950s and 1960s, by the eve of the Arab Spring 30 million tourists were being invited in each year.

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Scenes of girls fearlessly marching on the palaces of the anciens régimes evoked the French Revolution.Lady-boys in bras gyrate to African women banging tom-toms between their legs. ” I ask Latifa, a filmmaker by day and my guide through Morocco’s seedier side by night, as she hands the keys of her sports car to a valet garbed in a peasant’s scruffy tunic.“That you’re a Western source of corruption, and I’m your pute,” she replies, languidly wrapping an arm over my shoulder to leave no room for doubt.In an attempt to rein in the country’s avid bikini culture, a relic of Morocco’s former French rule, Benkirane’s justice minister won a legal battle to allow veils at the beach. “At least let us have sand castles.” On Fridays, prayer mats jostle for space with beach towels.“Forsake not God’s law on the beaches,” rants a bearded doomsayer who stalks bathers at Mehdia, a popular resort north of Rabat.“O faithful, bare not your nudity.” The sermon of Abd Al Samad Mirdas, a Casablanca preacher, reverberates from a car radio, likening women to devils.

• Morocco’s Kulturkampf is mild compared with that of Tunisia, 1,000 miles to the east, as it lurches from fundamental secularism to fundamental Islam.

Rather than welcoming the tempests of change blowing the idea of liberty from Europe, the Arab world seems to have succumbed to the puritanical sandstorms that have since ancient times periodically blown in from the Sahara, cleansing like pumice stones the epicurean ways of the southern Mediterranean with rugged monotheism.

Clerics railed against the Western colonial mores that earlier Arab revolutions had failed to root out.

The bars at the back of the bourse in Casablanca, the country’s commercial capital on the shores of the Atlantic, seem to bask in more red lights than Amsterdam.

Down the coast, past the mammoth Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest in the world, lies what may be the Muslim Arab world’s only transvestite bar, Le Village, run as a family business.

Marrakech, a rose-red city on the Sahara’s edge, is where former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn sated his lust, and even the normally temperate Financial Times chose the city as the site of its luxury conference.