At la Cigale, it's a little bit of everything

BAR It’s a restaurant bar attracting lawyers and young activists alike and it’s part of Casablanca’s heritage. Made in Casablanca stepped back in time at La Cigale and enjoyed free couscous on Fridays with the regulars.

La Cigale, in Casablanca is more than just a restaurant, it’s a piece of history. Opened in 1914, it was the first cafe in the Gauthier neighbourhood, and one of the first in the city. The first client was Italian, the second Spanish and then French. El Haj is the first Moroccan to set up there in 1970. It’s a bar unlike any other, and certainly one that can not easily be duplicated.

“I decorated this place myself,” says El Haj Abderrahmane, the bar owner. It was done in 1970 and nothing has changed since.

“The clients don’t want it.”

An old beaded curtain covering the entrance, aquariums, a pinball machine and a boar’s head decorated in Christmas decorations watching over the action. And of course a recipe painted on a flight of storks, one of the last traces of the Protectorate, left by the former owners. On a slight throne above the restaurant hangs a photo of King Mohammed VI and a large photo of Moulay Rachid, surrounded by fake roses. In the photo, he’s still a child.

A mixed crowd

Pass the two bistros where toasting costs just 20 dirhams, and you’ll come to a restaurant popular with locals who stop by on Fridays for free couscous. The owner, 73 years old and dressed in a jellaba, mingles with those with dreadlocks, uniformed police officers, leftists, intellectuals, journalists, students from the Spanish school and Federation des Provinces de France employees.

It’s typically a happy place to engage in a discussion. And occasionally, you’ll spot a tourist here.

Boulevard (an independent music festival in Casablanca) was conceived here. The photos of “Children of Nayda,” those who participated in the development of the Moroccan cultural movement in the 2000s, are hanging on the wall, just under those of the employees.

“They are also the chlidren of La Cigale,” laughs Abderhamane.

It’s a small space. But a great place. And serves those looking for a good meal or a drink. Or just a good time.

On the door separating the two rooms, an engraving is starting to disappear. “Happy New Year.” It could’ve been written in 1970, but it’s still valid year after year.

Texte & photo Mathias Chaillot

Translation: Mandy Sinclair