Tag Archives: sweet

Hamam in Tan-Tan…

Soon after we had cautiously loaded our bikes onto a coach in Essaouira, our stomachs were put to the test on windy moutainous roads leading to Agadir. But this mild discomfort pales compared to the exhaustion we would have felt had we cycled.

Our original plan was to spend one night in Tan-Tan in order to get right back onto the road following a few days off. But as soon as we met Mustapha, who we found on couchsurfing; we knew we would have to prolong our stay. By the time we’d unloaded our bikes and panniers, we’d already been introduced to his
brother, Nourdinne, and soon we were sipping tea with his mother, another brother; cousin, sister and brother-in-law.

‘Here we say that when we have a guest, our house becomes his house and we become the guests’, says Rachid, the youngest of the brothers.


puppyAfter dinner, the conversation turns towards the British love of animals. Before we knew it, we were receiving animal deliveries; a couple of tortoises, a rabbit and a puppy plucked from the street.

The following day was a treat for the senses: we spent most of the morning in Mustapha’s spice shop, looking at the herbs, spices, oils, remedies and soaps, trying to think of cunning ways of carrying them on the bikes and failing.

In the afternoon Rachid invited us to visit the Hamam. Excited at the prospect of a good scrub we were quick to accept the invitation.

Rachid, sesitive to the fact that I would have no way of communicating with the women who work in the Hamam (men and women naturally have seperate rooms), spoke with them beforehand to explain that a European would need babysitting.

Taken by the hand a plump Moroccan woman undressed me in the business fashion of a stressed mother. Leading me to the hottest room of three the exfoliation began. Using traditional soaps that Mustapha provided from his shop she scrubed my skin to a shade of raw pink.

Occassionaly she raised her head and showed me the rough mit, originally black it now accepted the colour of the first layer of my skin, she would tut dissaprovingly of my lazy exfoliation habits and then continue at the hard grind.

Whilst a little tough on the skin the experience was actually rather wonderful. I think I had made the false assumption that women lacked social time in Morocco. Its very easy to see men in the streets sipping tea and chatting all day, this brought both Imran and I to feel that women were somehow deprived of this of time.

There is, however, something rather sweet in being proved wrong. Seeing the women of the Hamam working together and bathing in the same rooms with no inhibitions brought me to realise how intimate the friendships between women are here. I felt a sense of a sisterhood as I was roughly undressed. Feeling rather exposed and a little sheepish I wished for a moment I had not accepted the Hamam invitation, but just then, as I felt so shy and out of place, the young woman next to me had spoken softly and with a smile said simply,

‘Bienvenue au Maroc’.


The beauty of Gnawa music…

With the advice of the gimbri carver we met in the park yesterday we take a bus towards the Kasbah of the Udayas expecting to hear some gnawa music in a concert like venue.

Using the Moroccan GPS we make our way towards what tranpired to be a private address in an old part of the city. As we grow closer to te house the location of the music we were looking for becomes very clear. The rhytmic crash of the krakebs hits the night air and stops us in our tracks, this was unmistakable sound of Gnawa music. We take timid steps closer to the house where we are spotted looking intrigued and are swept into the house through a large timber door. The building, an old riad style house has an open terrace carpetted with traditional rugs and littered with Moroccan antiques. The walls tell the stories of history, swords and daggers, gold leaf paintings with pensive looking warrior characters. The terrace is cushioned with satin pillows and low laying intricately carved tables. In the welcoming palm of each table and cushion sit ornate silver teapots, the smell of their sweet mint tea filling the air.

The intoxicating sound of the Gnawa music is encaptivating and as we stare around the room in awe of the scene sorrounding us it felt as though we might be beautifully invisible. No one is stirred by our unusual presence. We are not questioned as to why we have come. Each individual seems caught in their own moment, the hypnotic rhythm of the krakebs and the soulful tone of the gimbri.


Gnawa music is ancient in its origins, and there are intertwining influences between West African music and the Gnawa tones. Descendents of Sub-Saharan slaves the Gnawa are well known for their traditions of trance like music. The krakebs have an intoxicating effect on the mind, and it’s easy to see how it can induce a trance state. The empowering volume alone is impressive, but it’s the rhythm that tricks the mind. Rhythms are either a loose 4/4  comparable to samba, or a 2 against 3 feel. Short in cycle, you subconsciously hear a different rhythm each time.

A break arrives in the music and we are invited to sit with the musicians who are keen to tell us more about their culture.

‘The thing you must know is that the music we play is a pure form of Gnawa, there is nothing commercial in this. This music is part of our belief system and the people who have come here today are here to heal spiritual ailments.’

The gimbri player, Sadiki sits next to us and prepares his hashish/tobacco mixture before puffing gracefully at a long wooden pipe. Next to him the three krakeb players sip their mint tea quietly and listen to th conversation nodding in agreement at intervals.

‘We are here weekly and local people know of our music and this house. They come here specifically to be healed.’

The break is over and they return to sit and play. Many moments seem to have passed us but we are unaware of how long we have been sat for. Slowly, one by one, the people around us crawl towards the musicians. In trance they move to the rhytyms, shaking their heads, crying and swaying from side to side vigourously. The women who work and live in the house cover them in silk scarves of seven different colours (representing the seven different spirits) and for every person who joins more incense is added to the smoking embers.

The music seems to reach a climax but then draws back again before entering a series of prayers, then another series of songs are played. Finally, as each participant calms and their movements simmer the music so too follows, more prayers are said and a break is taken.

The musicians again join us for tea, this time they are grinning in our direction as they humourously stretch out their hands and fingers, they have been playing now for some 45 minutes continuously.

‘This will continue all night. You see, we are not simply playing songs, every piece is part of a complex set of musical passages which we must finish playing. We will be here all night.’