The first real cafes in Morocco appeared in 1913 in Casablanca. The trend for these new and very fashionable establishments quickly spread throughout the country. Coffee buyers ordered exclusively Brazilian coffee: a blend of 60% Arabica and 40% Robusta. In the last 110 years, the basic range of Moroccan cafes has not changed: black coffee (in a glass), nus-nus or “half and half”, half milk, half coffee (also called “special”); café au lait (Americano with a little milk) and café crème (milk with added coffee, similar to a latte).
The number of cafes with terraces was small, so tables were reserved for customers by the hour, sometimes a day or even two in advance. French and foreign customers often sat facing each other at the tables. The local clientele, however, sat exclusively in one direction: with their backs to the establishment and their faces towards the street, like in a theatre, observing, discussing and particularly gossiping about every passer-by. Yes, gossiping… because gossip is a national sport. The habit of sitting like in a cinema quickly spread to everyone, both colonists and locals.
Surprisingly, the fact is that only men enter the cafe terraces. Men in groups, pairs, alone… but only men, and under no circumstances women. I’m not talking about Starbucks terraces or trendy cafes, where the population is younger and more mixed. No, I’m talking about traditional cafes, old bistros in Moroccan establishments. They are only for men. It’s not that women are prohibited, but there’s simply no place for them… As my Moroccan friends often explain to me: just think, why would a girl come to a cafe for her reputation? What is she doing here? It’s not serious. She still needs to get married. And married women? I ask. Married women are at home, they have children, a husband, a family, cooking, cleaning… when would they have time to go to a cafe!
Terraces of cafes, which became part of the Moroccan lifestyle after the country gained independence, continue to be a spectator hall where the street and its passers-by are an exciting show…