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Tuesday 1 April 2014

Casablanca, Here's Lookin' at You...


I keep hearing from passengers that they didn't enjoy Casablanca. I can understand why, but at the same time I can't.

Casablanca is really alien. I was prepared for it after Marrakesh, but it was a hyperactive version of the same. On my second visit I had an even better time.

I went to look for Rick's Bar, of movie fame. It isn't real, but I guess that's the done thing to do in Casablanca, and I figured I'd try. God knows where it was, I couldn't find it. Anyway, I found myself lost deep in the Souks miles away from the tourist track, where nobody spoke any English, or accepted Euros. The streets were dirty and smelt of everything under the sun, crowded, ramshackle and an impossible maze. Exactly where I wanted to be.

My first stop was bread. The Morrocans have this round flat bread, backed in stone ovens on wooden paddles over a wood fire. I’ve seen it made and it tastes like nothing you can possibly buy in a shop. I struggled for a while to find anyone who would sell me a loaf of bread. Be it the quantity of one loaf, or the Strange foreigner money I was trying to pay in, some just got annoyed. Eventually a man took my money. The bread tasted sweet, rich and refreshing, and could have been my meal for the whole day. For many people it would be.

I passed fish cooking on what looked like thick black garden barbecues, the smell was insane. Men with sheets on the floor sold electronic goods, multi-adapters and phono to scart leads. Surprisingly, SD cards were easy to obtain in Casablanca. One man even offered me Argon Oil, ceramics or some quality marijuana. Judging by the quality of all their other plant produce, he probably wasn't lying.

My big scoop came from a table chock full of strawberries. There weren't any flies around it, and the guy looked friendly, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Now Morrocan strawberries are nothing like English strawberries. You know when you really fancy some strawberries, you have that sweet sweet taste on your tongue, you go to the supermarket and buy a pack and that taste like misery objectified, all sour and yucky? Not in Morroco. And not just because the only supermarket for miles is the street itself. These strawberries are big, juicy rich and red, each one like a small heart, with two swelling chambers. You bite into it and receive a little head-rush from a taste so rich you believed it to be a mere fantasy of sugar and e-numbers. How could such a dry and barren land yield such glory?

I digress, so I found a strawberry seller. I asked him how much I could get for two Euros. He took it and looked at it suspiciously. He shouted over his friends, and before long a huge crowd had gathered, to watch the strange tourist buying strawberries. He loaded a Kilo of strawberries into a bag, while his seniors discussed the exchange rate. When they finally worked out what I was paying them, the shop owner crammed even more into the bulging plastic bag. As I left he clutched my hand and looked at me with delighted eyes and said 'My house is your house'. I had to smile. That's what I love about Morocco, it pokes you and reminds you how lucky you are.

On the way back to Majesty, two young Muslim women demonstrated to me the key to pulling in Casablanca. 'La Frais'.

Au Revoir x

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