The Quality of True Friendship: My Casablanca Story
In 2007, I visited the great city of Marbella, for the first time. I sincerely thought I had found the Garden of Eden; it was a “heaven on earth” experience for me.
The uncommon drive and enthusiasm of the Spanish crowd, the unfiltered pleasure of the fun-seeking British tourist, the majestic affluence and breathtaking experience at the Olivia Valere Restaurant and Club; and the unforgettable experience of walking down the impressive boulevard of Puerto Banús, an absolute mixture of luxury, opulence and extravagance.
Amongst all of the awesome and amazing people I met, I will never forget Amine Lahlou. “Amine do you know our African brother Suji, he will be the Donald Trump of Nigeria very soon. He has some great real estate ideas’’ this was my sister and good friend, Zaza Abdulali introducing me to Amine. Zaza is an amazing Lebanese and Senegalese, who speaks Wolof and cooks dchep more than any Dakarian.
Coincidence creates opportunities! Amine and I shared a unique depth of friendship. We spent an amazing summer together, shared lots of business ideas, and even promised to do business together.
After numerous invitations and waiting for so long, 11 years later, Amine finally gave me an ultimatum. “Suji, if you don’t come to Casablanca this month, I will not talk to you again”. He threatened.
I remember during the period when I was faced with the Lorenzo challenges, Amine offered that I moved to Morocco. The King had just launched a real-estate fund which will make available 10Million USD for creative start-ups. That was how supportive he was.
At last, I had the opportunity to see my dear friend. From the airport to my hotel, I received the highest level of VVIP experience. I changed 500USD to Diram but I realised I didn’t have a need for it because Amine practically refused that I pay for anything! I was driven in a Bentley Ventaga with a private chauffeur, Presidential suite at the famous Hotel Villa Blanca. After a long day of meetings and site visits, we ended our night at the famous Le Cabestan – Ocean View seaside restaurant, where good food meets ambiance and music. I had a blast!
We also visited Amine’s older brother’s 16Million Euro Villa. It was breathtaking, with a swimming pool suspended on the 2nd floor. There´s a splash of luxury in every turn! I have been to several luxury homes, but this stands among the top – 3 most luxurious houses I have ever been to in my life.
They say you don’t visit France without visiting Paris, well for Morocco, it’s the illustrious city of Marrakesh, with her Bustling local market, exclusive night clubs, incredible restaurants with cabaret entertainment and villa at the Four Seasons prestigious hotel. I had so much fun that I forgot I was still in Africa. It reminded me of our days in South of France or the exotic city of Marbella. But above all, did you know that everything was 100% paid for?!!!
One of the highlights of my trip was when we visited a restaurant that was converted to a nightclub and the bill ended up to about 16,000 USD (about 5.5M Naira)! O boy, fear catch me as I thought this could get me 2000 bags of cement but to my surprise again, Amine had already paid for all. Such was the height of luxury treatment and the true value of friendship I experienced during this trip.
After much reflection, I started asking myself questions, question on the true meaning of friendship. What defines harmony? When do we know the true test of friendship? I realised that only 20% of the people we know contribute 80% of impact in our lives, while 80% of the trivial many contributes almost 0 impact in our lives. This reaffirmed my belief in the statement, ‘quantity is indeed not quality’.
In Morocco, many people knew Amine but Amine had only 3 friends, amongst them is the fearless Midouch, a young real estate don who is changing the skyline of Casablanca by raising the bar higher. This one has no room for mediocrity! He sure has the Motomatics gene!
If there was one thing that caught my attention about the city, it is the fact that it was absolutely clean and serene. Luxury is the minimum standard for real estate in Casablanca and opulence is the only language they understand.
I made good use of the opportunity to tour some of Amine’s family establishments. They control the biggest automobile stations in North Africa, the largest real estate portfolio in Casablanca, and many other investments. I was very impressed about how much my friend had grown. I met his smart and handsome sons, Sultan and Mio.
“Welcome uncle Suji, my dad never stopped talking about you. I want to be like you when I grow up.” Sultan blurted out so eloquently in an American accent. He is only 8 but has the wisdom of an adult. These kids not only aroused my interest in marriage but the experience is also a reminder of how far we still have to go as a country, particularly as regards the educational development of our children – the future generations.
The days of ‘owambe’ are gone; where we all visit places and people that only tolerate us, instead of frequenting places where we are celebrated. My Moroccan trip was an eye-opener and a lesson in the true value of friendship. After my trip, I have decided to keep the vital few friends that matter. People who know where they were going, people who see greatness in me even when I can’t see it in myself, friends to nourish and add value to one another and grow stronger together like the Iroko tree. Even Jesus loved the world but only kept 12 close friends. Why do you need many?