Casablanca, Day 09: Fascinating Mers Sultan
Casablanca Travel Blog› entry 77 of 92 › view all entries
Today Iâ€™m going to dive into the heart of Mers Sultan shopping district-- and then hike on south to the Edge of the City once againâ€¦
Iâ€™m not sure what this neighbourhood is called-- if I ask two people on the street, theyâ€™ll most likely get into an argument as to the true name of this neighbourhoodâ€¦ Iâ€™m in the â€śarrondisementâ€ť or â€śboroughâ€ť or Mers Sultan, but within Mers Sultan are scores of neighborhoods and sub-neighborhoods that overlap with each other. So Iâ€™ll just name it after the nearest main road,
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.
But thereâ€™s a cheerfulness to this place. It seem popular here to have songbirds as pets, so the streets echo with the chortling of birdsâ€¦ Hundreds of schoolkids in white aprons head to class, stopping for a mnsimmen or harsha for breakfast at one of many stallsâ€¦
I soon find a quiet little squareâ€¦
Music Spot 34: North
Quiet, shadyâ€¦ but pretty dirtyâ€¦
A little bit later I pass Mers Sultan train station and another little square right next to the street vegetable marketâ€¦ Another spot to play musicâ€¦ It seems that, despite this being a fairly poor area, there are no shortage of parkbenches to play music-- albeit rather dirty park benchesâ€¦ A drunk guy with a long beard listens from the sideâ€¦
Music Spot 35:
Not much shadeâ€¦ but has a neighbourly feelâ€¦
Discovery 076: Baladia Camel Meat Market
Iâ€™ve actually been looking for this place for almost 2 years.
Itâ€™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.
Everythingâ€™s pretty quiet right now. Across from the market is a little square thatâ€™s got a motley crowd of hobos, drunks and crazy people. After a bit of hesitation, I decide to pull out my guitar anywaysâ€¦
Within moments Iâ€™m joined by, guess who? The same bearded drunk guy that had listened to me at my last parkbench! Looks like Iâ€™ve got my very first parkbench â€śgroupieâ€ť! Yoohoo!
Soon Iâ€™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 disturbedâ€¦ Quite a comical sightâ€¦ I finally calm everybody down, play a few songs and bid farewell to my Baladia fan clubâ€¦
Music Spot 36: Baladia, Rating: ***
Itâ€™s the kind of place where anything could happenâ€¦ so if you like adventure, try playing hereâ€¦
Discovery 077: Downtown Derb Sultan
From Baladia I continue east right into the heart of the sprawling Derb Sultan market areaâ€¦ an entire neighbourhood of alleys that is also a daily street marketâ€¦ 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 alleysâ€¦ it just goes on and on foreverâ€¦ Itâ€™s fascinating to explore, but not particularly photogenicâ€¦
I suddenly find myself at a what looks like a gateway to an old medinaâ€¦ Itâ€™s actually the south entrance to Habbous,
I come upon a â€śmarket within the marketâ€ť-- a walled in market that specializes in olivesâ€¦ mountains of olives of various varieties neatly piled giving off their rich smellâ€¦ The dim light gives the place an exotic feelâ€¦
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 streetsâ€¦ Whew! It feels good to be able to breath again! Soon I reach
I pull out my guitar and am joined by a couple of schoolgirlsâ€¦ 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 guyâ€¦
Music Spot 37:
Not much shade, dirtyâ€¦ but I did have a respectful little audienceâ€¦
North of El Fida, in whatâ€™s called â€śDerb
Music Spot 38:
Shady, quiet-- mainly respectable folks-- but hard to find a seatâ€¦
I spot what looks like a market up a side streetâ€¦ Could it be the famous Korea Market? Sure enough! And a pleasant surprise it is! Iâ€™ve heard a lot about this market so itâ€™s on my â€śmust findâ€ť list-- even though I was expecting pretty much just another typical dirty, cramped market.
But noâ€¦ the aisles are spacious, and cool, with blue transluscent fibreglass roofing giving it a dreamy hueâ€¦ Itâ€™s well organizedâ€¦ Youâ€™ve got the used clothes area, the chandelier area, the plastic plants aisle, the used furnitureâ€¦ and a cool new furniture area where the cut to size, paint and varnish your living room set after you order itâ€¦ Fun to walk through-- if you can stand the smell of fresh varnishâ€¦ and there are some beautiful Moroccan sofa sets being made thereâ€¦
I think I can say itâ€™s my favorite market in all of
081: Ain Chock
I continue on up the side streets and boulevards back to yesterdayâ€™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 willâ€¦
Before long I cross the freeway and leave Mers Sultan behind and enter â€śArrondisement Ain Chockâ€ťâ€¦ Ain Chock is probably one of the less interesting â€śArrondisementsâ€ť of
This is a good area for a peaceful â€śthinking hikeâ€ťâ€¦ if you just want to walk and walk without a disruptionâ€¦ There are, of course cafes along the avenue, and a little market and snack shop area in what I guess is the â€śheartâ€ť of Ain Chockâ€¦ But itâ€™s all pretty tame after Derb Sultanâ€¦
082: The Southern Edge of
Finally open spaces start appearing between cluster of buildingsâ€¦ and signs that weâ€™re approaching the edge of the city. I cross El Qods, which I think is the last major east-west boulevard, and continue on furtherâ€¦ past one last lively neighbourhood center where there are a lot of shops and the streets get narrower and come to life againâ€¦
And thenâ€¦ more empty lotsâ€¦ construction projectsâ€¦ blocks of new homes still standing emptyâ€¦ quietâ€¦
We are reaching the edgeâ€¦
I donâ€™t feel like continuing on to the â€śabsolute edgeâ€ť, 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 neighbourhoodâ€¦ Itâ€™s an area with a completely different feel-- a neighbourhood still in the works, so I figure it deserves to be a â€śdiscoveryâ€ťâ€¦
I slowly swerve towards the northeastâ€¦ until I finally reach