Casablanca - arrival, hammam and ramadan - Morocco (2014)
Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco, although it is not the capital it is considered to be the countrys economic and business center. The name of the city always sounded very exotic to me so I was happy to have this city as my entry point for my trip to Morocco in 2014.
Arriving I was presented with a djellaba, gift from my hosts! Djellaba is a long, loose-fitting unisex outer robe with full sleeves which is traditionally worn in Morocco and throughout the region.
During the morning time it was nice to sit in the balcony and watch people going on with their lives.
The first place my hosts took me was the hammam "Le Pacha", one of the most luxurious in the city. Arriving, two people direct the cars where to park, it seems that many people are coming here. Really expensive cars, maserati, mercedes benz etc., guess the elite of Casablanca is here. Going inside we check what there is to offer, the prices range up to dh700 (~€63). We decide on something for dh180 (€16) which will take like an hour and includes all kinds of stuff, the full experience. We pay and then go separate of course, I go to the mens section. Asking if its alright that I don't speak the language, I am assured that it is no problem.
Going through the 1st door there is a room with a toilet and a shower which seems that nobody uses. A guy tells me for hammam I need to go downstairs. Going down there is another lobby and two small places where you undress to your underwear. The people are very helpful and smiling even though we can't communicate. A guy gives me a basket which I understand I am to put my clothes and anything for storage. I follow what the others do, but I take with me the small bag with everything for shower and a spare underwear. They lock it and give me the lock key in a bracelet to wear. I proceed to another room where there are many people, all men, stairs and layers and many massage beds. I notice the guy who led me in, leaving my stuff somewhere and he has some plastic wrapping and a small black thing. The black thing eventually is a piece of soap to use in the sauna but I didn't know so I never used it. I am led to the sauna room and left there to relax. Around 5-6 people at that time are in, all chilling in the smoky wet room. I find a place in a corner and sit. Everybody has the black small soap and they rub it on themselves and also rinse from time to time. I stay like a good 15 minutes until my body is full with sweat and I get out, not knowing what to do next. I go to the place where my stuff is, immediately the guys working notice me and two come, the one who brought me here is going to be my hammam masseur. We go up and to one of the massage beds which is next to some running water. I lay down and using a glove he scratches my whole body, from top to bottom front and back, removing any dead skin, even on the face. After that I get up and rinse myself with water. Then he puts the plastic wrap on the massage bed and tells me to lay on. He applies a hot liquid sand all over my body, front, back and then wraps me (sushi maki style) with the plastic all over my body, leaving only my head out to breathe. Immediately I feel the heat all over my body like massaging. Lets me roast for like 10 minutes and then he washes me with water, washes the massage bed as well. By that time I think we are done but he tells me to wait, in a way that there is more coming! Once again I lay down and he takes my bag and starts looking inside, as if searching for something. He must be shocked to see there all kinds of stuff (haha didn't know what to bring as nobody told me, stuff that include ear batons, a boxer, insect-repellent etc.), I understand he is looking for soap, so I get up and find it for him. He smiles and then applies soap to all of my body and gives me a full body massage, front and back. Finally he washes all my body from the soap, tells me to sit and shampoos my hair as well (!!), gives me a handshake and says thank you and then I knew I was done.
I walked to the end of that room in order to take a proper shower being all wet with my boxer when I realized I had forgotten my towel. I used my wet boxer for towel, put on the dry one and got out. I was directed to another room where people change and relax laying on a wooden bed, at the same time the guy brought me my stuff and clothes. I got out and while waiting for the girls a guy who was next to me in the sauna started a conversation. He was around his 70s I would say, spoke excellent English and had been in Greece, he recalled some of the places in my home country and that he enjoyed the food. Told me I will enjoy Chefchaouen (my next destination after Casablanca) and that many artists go there to relax, smoke etc. He wished me a good time in Morocco. And thats how my Casablanca day one started.
Being in Morocco during Ramadan is a very interesting experience. You should definitely be careful not to openly eat and drink on the streets as almost everybody is fasting as long as the sun is out (you will not be scolded but you should do it out of respect), most of the eateries are closed either way. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad according to Islamic belief. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Iftar is the evening meal when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. Dates are usually the first food to break the fast. According to tradition, the Prophet Muhammad broke the fast with three dates. Following that, Muslims generally adjourn for the Maghrib prayer, the fourth of the five daily prayers, after which the main meal is served. Traditional dishes are often highlighted, including traditional desserts, and particularly those made only during Ramadan. Water is usually the beverage of choice, but juice and milk are also often available, as are soft drinks and caffeinated beverages.
All the food was delicious, from the dates and pastry to the soup and the seafood!
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