Travel tip: you can always find alcohol if you really need it. And don’t take hash from old men in bars.
Actually, in terms of a pub scene, it may just be one bar. A relic from the French colonial days, Bar Hafra is a fisherman and port-worker hangout close to the medina wall on the edge of the harbour. Out of respect for the more devout Muslims, there is no signage at all to get to it, or to mark its door. Doesn’t make it easy to find. After wandering several alleyways and into the courtyard of someone’s house, a courteous blue-turbaned young man watching us from his doorstep said “Um, that’s someone’s house.” Yeah. We told him we were looking for Bar Hafra. “You know in Arabic, hafra means…” He made a digging motion. “Digging? A well? Underground?” We all shrugged. He sent us off with hand gestures for a few rights and a left.
Bar Hafra has beers starting at 17 dirham, extremely pockmarked tables and cigarette-scarred ash trays. I didn’t get the camera out for any interior shots. The single men lined up with their backs to the cracked tiled walls, smoking cigarettes and watching wresting on TV, didn’t look like they would appreciate a photo shoot. A waiter called Omar brought round some small plates of fried chickpeas coated in cumin and salt (see surreptitious phone pic of table, those chickpeas were great).
An elderly Berber man started chatting to us in very good English. He said he learnt English on the Moroccan film set south in his homeland. He mentioned Laurence of Arabia (filmed in 1962) and then a Jean Claude Van Damme movie (less classy) and The Mummy (a personal favourite). Then white-haired old granddad, went up to the bar and scored some hash off a guy, warmed up the little brown ball in his hand with his lighter and offered us some. We passed. But cheers. He told PK to make sure he “smoked some with his lovely wife in the desert”. Looking at the stars etc. Sound advice.
A wandering musician came in, scrounged a few dirhams off everyone and played a dirge for about 1 min. Then thankfully someone bought him and beer and he stopped. It was only a Monday night. Apparently Fridays and Saturdays are raucous, if the fish catch has been good in the week. Highly recommend.