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Casablanca's Hassan II mosque

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One of the city's watersellers

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Abdelhadi in a traditional djellabah

Salah before the haircut

CASABLANCA        Forget Rick's bar; it wasn't there (unless you counted the bar at the Hyatt Regency Hotel that had all the posters).   Forget Bogart and the romance.  It waisn't there either.  Casablanca was a huge city.  There wasn't much for a tourist to do except shop around the medina and the Habous.  Instead, Casa was where real Moroccans lived and worked.  But, nobody could beat the Moroccans when it came to hospitality.  

When I visited Morocco, I stayed with either my Moroccan family or my landlord's family.  I felt like I could have slept forever due to jetlag but at 9:00 Meryem, the landlord's daughter, was knocking at the door.   I went upstairs for "kawa" (coffee).  When they said kawa, I knew to expect more than kawa.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  There was coffee, tea, cookies, bread, jam, butter, cheese, harira, and lots of seconds.  There was no being polite either.  They insisted I Kool! Kool! Kool! (Eat! Eat! Eat!)

One experience not to be missed in Morocco was the hammam (bath).   Salah took me and I didn't know what to expect.  Mosques, bakeries, and hammams were usually next to each other.  The hammams were heated so they also baked there and people cleaned up before going to pray. 

We entered a room and nobody was in it.  It sort of looked like a locker room.  I thought, "This is it?"  It wasn't.  It was a locker room.  Behind a huge door were three rooms.  Each hotter than the other.  Salah lead me to the hottest room.  We stayed there about five minutes to get a good sweat going.

Then we moved with our buckets of hot water to the middle room.   It was time to scrub.  We sat down on the floor.  There was a special mitt for scrubbing and you rubbed everywhere until you saw dead cells.  It was a little abrasive, but it did the job.  After the abrasion came a rinse and shampoo.  There was a lot to see during all this.  There were over a dozen men in the bath wearing short or towels.  Some were lying on the floor being scrubbed by men whose job was to scrub others all day. 

We moved next to the coolest of the hot rooms.  Here was the "lather with soap" room.  I followed Salah's lead in everything up until the end.  I took a final rinse in really cold water.  I just poured a bucket over my head.  I guess that was just not done and a lot of people tittered in Arabic when I did that. 

Copyright 2001 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.