Casablanca, Day 09: Fascinating Mers Sultan

Casablanca Travel Blog

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Entrance to Habbous

Today I’m going to dive into the heart of Mers Sultan shopping district--  and then hike on south to the Edge of the City once again…

 

Discovery 075: El Fida Neighborhood

 

I’m not sure what this neighbourhood is called--  if I ask two people on the street, they’ll most likely get into an argument as to the true name of this neighbourhood… I’m in the “arrondisement” or “borough” or Mers Sultan, but within Mers Sultan are scores of neighborhoods and sub-neighborhoods that overlap with each other.  So I’ll just name it after the nearest main road, El Fida…

 

This is the neighbourhood directly south of the train tracks with mainly 2 storey rather grimy old houses and narrow streets--  a sharp contrast to the newer, higher apartment blocks right across the tracks.

Derb Sultan


But there’s a cheerfulness to this place.  It seem popular here to have songbirds as pets, so the streets echo with the chortling of birds… Hundreds of schoolkids in white aprons head to class, stopping for a mnsimmen or harsha for breakfast at one of many stalls…

 

I soon find a quiet little square…

 

            Music Spot 34: North El Fida: Rating: ***
           
Quiet, shady… but pretty dirty…

 

A little bit later I pass Mers Sultan train station and another little square right next to the street vegetable market… Another spot to play music… It seems that, despite this being a fairly poor area, there are no shortage of parkbenches to play music--  albeit rather dirty park benches… A drunk guy with a long beard listens from the side…

 

            Music Spot 35: Mers Sultan Train Station Square: ***

            Not much shade… but has a neighbourly feel…

 

Discovery 076: Baladia Camel Meat Market

 

I’ve actually been looking for this place for almost 2 years.

  A couple guys brought me to this very popular spot back in 2008, and I’ve never been able to figure my way back…

 

It’s a little meat market tucked away in a very gritty neighbourhood called Baladia.  Here folks come from all over town to enjoy freshly grilled camel meat late into the night.

 

Everything’s pretty quiet right now.  Across from the market is a little square that’s got a motley crowd of hobos, drunks and crazy people.  After a bit of hesitation, I decide to pull out my guitar anyways…

 

Within moments I’m joined by, guess who? The same bearded drunk guy that had listened to me at my last parkbench!  Looks like I’ve got my very first parkbench “groupie”!  Yoohoo! 

 

Soon I’m joined by others and a big tussle erupts between the drunks who want to listen to my music and others who want to defend the poor foreigner from being disturbed… Quite a comical sight… I finally calm everybody down, play a few songs and bid farewell to my Baladia fan club…

 

            Music Spot 36: Baladia, Rating: ***

            It’s the kind of place where anything could happen… so if you like adventure, try playing here…

 

Discovery 077: Downtown Derb Sultan

 

From Baladia I continue east right into the heart of the sprawling Derb Sultan market area… an entire neighbourhood of alleys that is also a daily street market… A fascinating place to explore--  but I can hardly imagine how annoying it must be to people who live here to have to squeeze through a labyrinth of market alleys just to get to and from their houses!

 

There are clothing alleys, dishes alleys, vegetable alleys… it just goes on and on forever… It’s fascinating to explore, but not particularly photogenic…

 

I suddenly find myself at a what looks like a gateway to an old medina… It’s actually the south entrance to Habbous, Casablanca’s beautiful “new” old medina… Definitely discovery worthy, but it’ll take time--  and today my focus is on heading south…

 

078: Olive Market

 

I come upon a “market within the market”--  a walled in market that specializes in olives… mountains of olives of various varieties neatly piled giving off their rich smell… The dim light gives the place an exotic feel…

Just watch your step--  the floor can be a bit slick!

 

079: The Crown

 

Finally I exit the cramped alley areas and back to wider streets… Whew!  It feels good to be able to breath again!  Soon I reach El Fida--  The main east-west drag of this area.

Korea Market
  Here there a big crown sculpture and what’s left of a childrens park.  It looks like it was built recently--  but not maintained or protected…

 

I pull out my guitar and am joined by a couple of schoolgirls… Not a very common occurrence--  as girls, especially in these kinds of neighborhoods will get catcalls and insults if they sit next to a guy--  especially a foreign looking guy…

 

            Music Spot 37: Crown Park, Rating: ***

            Not much shade, dirty… but I did have a respectful little audience…

 

080: Casablanca’s Best Market

 

North of El Fida, in what’s called “Derb Korea” the streets get wider and quieter... I find yet another shady plaza--  man, they’ve got these plazas everywhere here!

 

            Music Spot 38: Korea Square, Rating: ****

            Shady, quiet--  mainly respectable folks--  but hard to find a seat…

 

I spot what looks like a market up a side street… Could it be the famous Korea Market?   Sure enough!  And a pleasant surprise it is!  I’ve heard a lot about this market so it’s on my “must find” list--  even though I was expecting pretty much just another typical dirty, cramped market.

 

But no… the aisles are spacious, and cool, with blue transluscent fibreglass roofing giving it a dreamy hue… It’s well organized… You’ve got the used clothes area, the chandelier area, the plastic plants aisle, the used furniture… and a cool new furniture area where the cut to size, paint and varnish your living room set after you order it… Fun to walk through--  if you can stand the smell of fresh varnish… and there are some beautiful Moroccan sofa sets being made there…

 

I think I can say it’s my favorite market in all of Casablanca…

 

081: Ain Chock

 

I continue on up the side streets and boulevards back to yesterday’s high water mark: Avenue 2 Mars.  I was hoping to follow it south all the way to the edge of the city.  Maybe I still will…

 

Before long I cross the freeway and leave Mers Sultan behind and enter “Arrondisement Ain Chock”… Ain Chock is probably one of the less interesting “Arrondisements” of Casablanca--  but there are still some things to discover here.  Here the boulevards get even wider and the side streets quieter.  Avenue 2 Mars continues to be the “divide” between the wealthier villa neighborhoods to the west and the less wealthy neighborhoods to the east… I would say more “middle class”…

 

This is a good area for a peaceful “thinking hike”… if you just want to walk and walk without a disruption… There are, of course cafes along the avenue, and a little market and snack shop area in what I guess is the “heart” of Ain Chock… But it’s all pretty tame after Derb Sultan…

 

082: The Southern Edge of Casablanca

 

Finally open spaces start appearing between cluster of buildings… and signs that we’re approaching the edge of the city.  I cross El Qods, which I think is the last major east-west boulevard, and continue on further… past one last lively neighbourhood center where there are a lot of shops and the streets get narrower and come to life again…

And then… more empty lots… construction projects… blocks of new homes still standing empty… quiet…

We are reaching the edge…

I don’t feel like continuing on to the “absolute edge”, so finally I swerve off east on a shady side street, past vegetable vendors with donkey carts trying to get their foot in here in this new neighbourhood… It’s an area with a completely different feel--  a neighbourhood still in the works, so I figure it deserves to be a “discovery”…

I slowly swerve towards the northeast… until I finally reach Mohammed VI Boulevard… and decide to call it a day…

SalhiAyoub says:
"history is not just measured in years, but in accomplishments..." Nathan Phil
Posted on: May 09, 2010
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Entrance to Habbous
Entrance to Habbous
Derb Sultan
Derb Sultan
Korea Market
Korea Market
Casablanca
photo by: nathanphil