I love you, Casablanca

Casablanca is one of the cities that embodies an entire culture, an entire population. I hold a very close relationship with Casablanca, to me, it’s the materialization of the Moroccan psyche : white walls stained with dust and time, big shiny buildings near the maze of old medina streets and slums, never-ending traffic, trash almost everywhere your eyes can wander, a smell of drugs, perverted shadows and alcohol, a contradiction where all opposites collide… But also the Moroccan dream; a city so broke, so cold yet able of the most warmth and humanity, a city where anyone can turn into anything he imagines (or fears), a place where you need to fight for your survival or drown in the abyss of the city, where you experience all frequencies of the spectrum of emotions: pain, struggle, love, attachment, apathy, generosity, fear, success, content, pleasure, redemption… This is the city of rebirth. It’s certainly one of the main reasons behind my special link with Casablanca, each time I’m here, I instantly tune in. A friend of mine, Yassmine Ezzaouali, when asked what she loves the most about Casa talked about how much diversity we can find here, she added “What I like the most about Casablanca are the views of the city. Each place has its own touch.” And her words are so true, each place touches the viewer in a different way, and each place can provide you with opposite vibes depending on how you want to perceive it. In this city, I learned to be alone in moving crowds,  to find unity in diversity and contradiction, to stop seeing paradox and instead embrace difference as a power, not a weakness. Dar el Beida (in arabic the white house) teaches us how to find internal peace and build a temple of love within chaos, even if the surrounding is almost a journey through the gates of Hades on a train on fire with no conductor about to fall from a cliff… You get the picture : you either love, or hate this city, there’s no in between. Mohamed Kaiter expresses this duality saying “I , a fellow Moroccan living in Casablanca , both hate and love my city. Hate it because of the people who live in it, so hypocrite when it comes to literally everything; they’d love dating a model but at the same time hate on the girls in the streets for not wearing a hijab or for not wearing covering clothes, they don’t seem to have a logical way of thinking. I love this city because of its atmosphere,  its vibes and a few people I’ve met here during my life. I feel connected to my city so whenever i travel, i feel a huge difference… then i know I’m really attached to Casablanca. I love it.”

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Hassan II Grand Mosque, Ain Diab, Casablanca.

The city, with its North African New York vibe, is an eclectic mix of different cultures, styles, buildings, people, and youth culture influences. It’s mainly why I believe that Casablanca has the most potential amongst all cities in Morocco, it is the most human-like: flawed yet inspiring. A melting pot of souls, dreams, fragments of lives and realities that allow real talent, feeling, expression of self, passions, and creativity to emerge. It’s like Berlin after the Second World War or a Lotus flower since a flower so beautiful can only blossom in mud. If I had to count all the incredibly talented people the city gave birth to or witnessed reborn, this article would turn into an endless scroll. One of the people I’d like to mention on today’s article has to be the photographer, designer and fashion artist Joseph Ouechen. To me, he really represents and embodies the duality “strenght-gentleness/light-darkness/lost-found” that is the heart and soul of Casablanca. Joseph Ouechen, more than anyone else, knows the main two faces of Casablanca as he grew up in Sidi Mimoun, one of the most dangerous slums of the country and made it “all the way up“, fighting hard to make his passion come true and to shift his own reality so that it fits his dreams of greatness. And he’s still seeking for truth, for beauty, for art, for his true self. Here’s one recent video about his journey and quest created by the talented We Make Them Wonder that I salute by this occasion for the beauty of their shots in the city of Dar El Beida, chapeau.

 

” First, it catches you with its beauty, mysterious charm and that “City dream” possibility to achieve whatever you seek… still frightened of what might show up, lost in the crowd, I wandered and wondered through those streets, in every spot I realised my  true self and what’s around me, learnt to comprehend it and appreciate all its facets, I met people who sacrificed themselves to survive and others who live in another world not caring what’s behind those walls they built to protect themselves from what’s outside… confused between what’s left behind, unspoken and what’s coming, what we can change instead of complaining about, what we can create and innovate together … There are times when loneliness took over, thoughts were burning in my veins, seeing how chaos spreads in our country, how life is still hard on people living in this era, how much pain we carry on our shoulders since we start walking, things missing outside and inside us, how we’re still not able to express all our points of views and opinions, how it’s still considered a shame, mad and insane to follow our passions and discover, how we’re not able to let go, trust our kids and believe in our youth. And instead of helping them we make them depressed, instead of pulling them closer we push them afar, instead of guiding them we keep building barriers around their dreams and imprison them. Fear once vanished and as my mind dug its way through, I found myself surrounded by many who held their ideas and dreams tight, ran miles after it till they reached it, nothing would’ve move them or stand between them and their goals & perspectives, people who found love in all conditions and under all circumstances… influenced by this city’s artists, culture and stories and all the lights hidden beside us, I keep marching’ on, driven by belief in the power of our passion… the power beneath each one of us! This city is alive.. This city has a soul.. Casa … I see the colours in you! ” 

-Abdelhamid Belahmidi, co-founder of “Ma’sou9ish in the city

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Ma’sou9ish in the city

كازا كيف كنسميوها. ناس لي ماساكنينش فيها و لي ماعاشوش فيها، كيشوفوها غول و كيخافو منها و معرفتش علاش مكيقدروش يجيو ليها. و حتى لي كيجيو ليها، كيشوفو بلايص محدودين و محسوبين على الصباع. هاد الشي علاش مكرهتش الناس يعرفو وجه آخر ديال كازا لي عشت فيها، على كازا الأحياء الشعبية. و مكنعنيش بالشعبية غير ديور قدام و ممنظمينش و مضيقين و صباغتهم قديمة، و مغنكتشبش على السرقة و الرڭاعا و البزنازا و المبوقات و الجناوا، و الدم لي كيسيل فزناقي كازا كل نهار. هاد الشي كلشي كيعرفو و ممحتاجش نعاود نكتبو. هاد الشي علاش غنكتب على الحاجات الزوينين لي عشتهم فكازا، ولي مازال كنعيشهم، و لي بداو كينقارضو شوية بشوية. غنكتب على الدروبة الشعبية لي شعبية حيت بيبان ناسها ديما محلولين فوجه بعضهم، الدروبة لي كتلقى ناسها عايشين بحال عائلة وحدة. غنكتب على الجارة لي وقت كتحتاج من جارتها شي حاجة كتهبط عندها ببيجاما و كتطلب شنو بغات بلى متحس بأنه تنقيص من قيمتها، و لي غتبقا مجمعا مع جارات بالبيجامت بلى ما يڭول ليهم شي واحد عيب هاد الشي. الدرب الشعبي و لي كنسميه شعبي، هو لي ولادو عايشين خوت بعضياتهم و لي كيشوف الأم ديال ولد دربهم و لي كيعتابرها بحال الأم ديالو جايا من السوق و هازا حاجات ثقيلة، مكيتسناهاش حتى تطلب منو يعاونها حيت غيعاونها بلى ما تتطلب. غنكتب على الدرب لي كلشي كيحترم شي شوية كلشي حيت كلشي كبر مع كلشي، ماشي على ود الفلوس و السلطة. الدرب لي ولادو كيحترمو بنات دربهم و كيقدروهم حيت كيشوفو فيهم خواتاتهم و بنات دربهم لي كبرو معاهم، وكاين لي كيشوف فيها حبيبتو لي باغي يكمل معاها حياتو. الدرب لي وقت كيكونو الصغار لاعبين ديما كيكون شي واحد لي كيجري عليهم و يقطع ليهم البالون، و لكن نهار كيتحول و لا يموت، الناس كتأثر و كتنسى بالزربة ڭاع داك الشي لي كانو كيشوفوه فيه مامزيانش. الدرب لي واخا ما يكونش فيه هاد الشي كامل لي كتبت، و لكن نهار الشدة كلشي واقف وقفة وحدة، يد وحدة. باش منكونش أفلاطوني بزاف، هاد الشي عشت فيه بزاف و خصوصا فصغري، مازال كنعيش فيه شي حاجات فبزاف ديال الدروبة شعبيين، و بزاف الحاجات مكتبتهمش، و بزاف الحاجات ما بقاوش نقارضو. و لكن لي نقدر نكتب و أنا متأكد منو، هو أننا كنشوفو فكازا بحال الأم التانية لي رباتنا بين زناقيها، ولي واخا مكتعطفش على ولادها علماتهم كيفاش يعيشو و ينجموا رواحهم وقت يكونو عليها بعاد. كازا مدينة كتبني فتاريخها لي كتكتبو برواح بزاف الناس من بزاف البلايص فالمغرب.

-يوسف الزاوي

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“Welcome to CasaNegra”, scene from Casanegra movie by Nour Eddin Lakhmari

I would like to thank each person that contributed to the writing of this article. Credits of the amazing Illustrations go to Mohamed El Bellaoui aka Rebel Spirit, his work is unique and I recommend you check it out; it portrays what Casablanca screams best “Poverty, courage and Rock’n Roll”. Thanks to Yassmine Ezzaouali for taking the time to think about what Casa represents to her, and to Mohamed Kaiter for his honest opinion, revealing a very sad reality of Casablanca and Morocco in general: how religion justifies hate sometimes and how women are treated. A special thanks to the lovely Joseph Ouechen for allowing me to share his fascinating story with you guys and his incredible video; make sure to follow him on instagram you won’t regret it. A warm thank you to Abdelhamid Belahmidi for sharing his deep and inspiring thoughts with me and even chosing the perfect picture for this article. And last but definitely not least lots and lots of regards to Youssef Zaoui for his great contribution in darija (dialectal arabic) so that everyone can read this article and enjoy it, his words of truth came from the heart. If you’re going to visit Casablanca, make sure to check Made in Medina website or application, you’ll get to see the latest news and events in the while city

Peace out folks,

FZ


2 thoughts on “I love you, Casablanca

  1. A really beautiful article. I used to hate casablanca really hate it I grow up there in darb sultan I never saw anything beautiful in it. My feelings did change when I moved with my family to agadir two years ago I like it in here but sometimes I miss casa I miss its beautifull side that I took for granted now I know that i was so lucky that I grow up there everything I went through there made me the strong girl I’m now.

    1. Dear Merieme, i’m so happy you enjoyed reading the article as much as i did writing. Yes, it for sure helped you be more aware of yourself as a person and in the surrounding. I had a look on your blog and wow, i really like it, it’s shy, but you’re going to go places. Just keep up the good work darling and keep expressing yourself and try to become an ambassador of your diversity (amazigh culture per ex). Have a great summer love

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