casablanca: the few good places to go
Sent out the bat signal to the homey Karl 'the mineral man' Mangialardi, aka, 'Our man in Morocco', aka, 'The Philly goosepimple pimp'.
He took the first thing smokin' from Fez to Casa to show me the ropes.
'Casa's a shithole.' He confided. 'You have to know the few good places to go.'
Over the next few days he proceeded to show me these places. Rick's cafe near the port, with its incredible live jazz band on Sundays. The Marché Centrale where we had fresh-shucked oysters from a smack-talking auntie and watched a turtle try to escape its fate. The best cafe to order a cafe noir w/'shwee' lait. The mazelike and surprisingly modern-focused medina. The beachfront bustle of Ain Diab. The tragic misuses of travertine and other stones in the crumbling, barely-beautiful Art-Deco style buildings around central Casa.
But my favorite Mangialardi insider experience? The 'man bars'.
You see, as a Muslim country, the consumption of alcohol is technically prohibited. But... drankers gonna drank. So, Karl inducted me into the secret society of Casablanca dive bars frequented only by men.
The telltale sign of one of these hidden-in-plain-sight bars? A 70s-style beaded curtain. Once pulled back, another world awaits. Cigarette smoke hangs heavy in the air. Moroccan men of all ages - but mostly older - belly up to the bar, camp out at tables, ordering round after round of Stork (lager) or Speciale (pilsner). The music from the comically ancient jukebox is either classic rock (heavy on the Dire Straits) or Moroccan gnawa (Karl and I are both partial to the gnawa music).
With Karl as my escort, I am largely invisible. I imbibe my beers and observe much. Chokran and merci beaucoup for the crash course, Karl! #askalocal #behindthebeadedcurtain