Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The cleanliness of Moroccan toilets - and poetry, too!

I came across a most interesting article in the Big Brother Maroc blog this evening, linking to a website there devoted to the notion that lavatories, toilets or whatever 'euphemism' you wish to employ, do not have to be disgusting, but too often are. It aims to focus attention on really crass examples and thereby encourage the operators of these locales to clean up their act. I post two photographs below, the first completely disgusting and the second not (it would seem) bad at all, to show that filth does not have to be the norm:

The filthy toilet on the train between
Casablanca and Mohammed V Airport

The pretty clean-looking
Cervantes Institute, Casablanca

A long time ago I lived in Morocco for a couple of years and have been back a few times in later years, so am always interested when I hear mention of the country as I enjoyed living there a lot. My memories from there, so far as toilets are concerned, range from the perfectly pleasant to the completely awful, but in all honesty the same could be said about many (if not all) of the countries I have lived in or visited. I do recall that the male staff toilets in our Casablanca office were particularly disgusting (on one occasion a 30 feet section of drain had to be replaced because it had become blocked with - well suffice to say it wasn't pretty! The real problem was an over-enthusiastic use of toilet paper - the consumption of this commodity there was truly extraordinary, for a staff complement of only about 55 in all.), but on the other hand other 'traditional' toilets there were often perfectly clean, if 'exotic', for someone used to a sit-down lavatory. However I did spend a day in what might laughably be called an hotel room in the southern Moroccan town of Tan Tan (map) which remains to this day (36 or 37 years later) the most awful I have ever experienced - straw-filled bolster mattress, no sheets, just a rather soiled-looking blanket; it didn't do me much harm though, as I'm still around to tell the tale! Tan Tan is about 350 Km south of Agadir, itself about 360 Km south of Casablanca, where I lived.

I think this idea of highlighting unsavoury toilets could usefully be copied for other countries - it would provide a useful service for residents and travellers alike and perhaps encourage operators to do better.

Oh, the poetry! In the Big Brother Maroc blog I found this sentence in the relevant article particularly delightful and expressive:
"En plus, pour vos soirées ou sorties, n'hésitez pas à consulter ce site pour éviter les endroits les moins propices à notre confort sphinctérien."
(In addition, for your evening celebrations or your excursions, don't forget to consult this website so you may avoid places less conducive to your sphincteric comfort.)
- don't you just love it? There are a lot more turns of phrase in that blog that have brought a smile to my face!


  1. O Cloacina! Goddess of this place,
    Gaze on thy suppliants with a smiling face,
    Smooth and consistent may their offerings flow,
    Neither rashly swift, nor insolently slow...

  2. Hi Richard,

    ¿Qué? ;)

    John Gay, I suspect? (Or perhaps Byron, according to one possibly tongue-in-cheek attribution), Here's a slighly different version:

    O Cloacina, Goddess of this place,
    Look on thy suppliants with a smiling face.
    Soft, yet cohesive let their offerings flow,
    Not rashly swift nor insolently slow.


  3. No idea who was responsible, but it was the only piece of 'poetry' that your subject matter brought to mind!

    FWIW, I think the version I left smeared unhygenically on your blog was from a Stephen Fry book - Paperweight, I think - although he almost certainly wasn't the one who concocted it. Any misquotation from the original I hereby blame on him...

    I've been to Casablanca twice, when I was working on a P&O cruise ship with a band. On the first occasion, I'm ashamed to say I ran for the safety of McDonalds to escape the attentions of the hustlers. I was also a bit perturbed to find out that they'd kicked us off the ship without warning us that it was Ramadan, and that any attempt to try and find food in the (invariably closed) cafes was likely to meet with great agitation!

    My second visit was a lot more enjoyable... even though the guard denied me access to the Hassan II mosque on that particular day on the grounds that it was 'Muslim only'. Morocco is a country I'd like to spend a lot more time in, even if Casablanca isn't necessarily the place I'd like to spend that time in.



  4. I think it is one of those things that has passed down from mouth to mouth for a long time - Fry obviously got it from somewhere else. The only thing certain is that Cloacina is the Roman Goddess of Sewers (viz. Cloaca Maxima, the ancient sewers of Rome).

    I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Morocco - Casabalnca is of course the commercial centre of the country and not an ancient city at all, but is pretty modern, although parts are lovely - I lived in two places when I was there (and a third temporarily), all in very attractive parts of the city; there were some lovely villas (some were mini-palaces really) around where I lived.

    I liked to go to Marrakech about once a month for the weekend (there was a great restaurant in the valley on the way up to the ski-station at Oukaimeden in the Atlas, about an hour from Marrakech) and other favourite places were Fez and of ocurse there was a nice (and safe) beach just south of Rabat at Mohammedia; most of the Atlantic sea coast in northern Morocco is treacherous with dangeorous under-currents, so most use salt-water pools along the coast at Anfa on Casa's outskirts. Great restaurants there too . Ramadan is a problem for visitors, I agree, but a whole lot less difficult than in many other Moslem countries, I assure you.

  5. PS / How interesting - working on P&O cruise ships with a band.

    Not in Casa but in some other places that cruise ships called we used to provide local banking services in rotation with other banks, so I was able to visit quite a number of vessels over the years (mainly American or French).

  6. I saw some really nice bits of Casablanca, and once I got away from the coach drop off point and therefore away from the minority of professional hucksters looking for 'wealthy' westerners from whom they thought they might be able to extract a fast buck or to whom they might be able to sell some 'herbal' products, it was all good.

    We were never in port for more than a few hours, so Marrakech was never on the itinery. However, it's right at the top of the list for the next time I find myself in North Africa.

    The cruise ship work I just fell into, to be honest. It fitted fairly well with the day job, since it was only ever over xmas/New Year, and never for much more than 3 or 4 weeks at a time, which could be fitted (at a stretch) around holiday entitlements. I'm not sure I would have been so enamoured of it had it been a full time gig - I loved the pub 'gigs' and doing the theatre shows, but there's only so many 10am sing-a-longs and dance classes you can face conducting when you've been out in the crew bar until only a few short hours earlier :-)

    We had it easy as guest entertainers, since we were basically treated like passengers. However, if you were full time, it would have meant working up to 50 hours a week including rehersals, with little to do in between time other than drink or work on your cabin fever. Nice to have done, but nicer in my view to be able to fit around other, more long-term commitments!


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