Cape Town’s Mabu Vinyl — Where Searching for Sugar Man Started

If you are familiar with the story of Rodriguez and the Oscar-winning documentary  Searching for Sugar Man, you know the musician and Apartheid-era South Africa  intersect. His music became a rallying cry for the oppressed and those opposed to the government.

Mabu Vinyl on Rheede St. in Cape Town is where the search for Rodriguez began. Owner Stephen “Sugar” Segerman was a fan of the singer, who didn’t have success in America but was beloved in South Africa. When he heard a rumor that Rodriguez might be dead, he went on a journey to find the musician and bring him to South Africa. 

You can see a little bit of music and movie history and make your music snob friends jealous by visiting Mabu Vinyl. Unfortunately, I passed the store twice and both times it was closed (Mon-Fri 9-7, Sat 9-6, Sun 11-3). DOH! It’s a six minute walk from my favorite bar in the city, The Power and the Glory, and around the corner from the awesome burger place Hudson’s. That Kloof Street area is filled with great bars, eateries and cool looking people.

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Random Photos of Casablanca

Looking back, Casablanca wasn’t so bad after all. Two nights and one full day was perfect for what I wanted to accomplish — see the big sights, visit the hot spots, eat the pastries, indulge in some touristy activities and not set off an international incident.

As the financial center of Morocco that aspires to be relevant in the world economy like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Casablanca is far from what you think it is based on a 70-year old movie.

Take this photo below. It looks like any third-world middle eastern country like Syria, Jordan or Iraq. Nope, it’s Casablanca, if I turned around you’ll see major commerce.

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Then you have this photo. It looks like Los Angeles, Phoenix or Miami. Nope, a park Casablanca.

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As this is my last post about Morocco, enjoy some randomness.

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Le Chester’s in Casablanca is Worth Going Every Night Just for the Hamburger Alone

As the financial center of Morocco, Casablanca attracts business people from around the world.  The waterfront is filled with nightclubs and eateries that cater to high-end clientele and the international douche crew. As I mentioned in my first impressions of the city when I was there, these clubs seem exciting until you look inside and see that they are empty.

In the city center is Le Chester’s, a gathering place that feels like a chill party with great food, drinks, music and friendly people. It’s why I went there both nights when I was in the city.

That NY Times 36 Hour video was my guide, where Le Chester and it’s French owner was profiled as a slice of New York in Casablanca. Look and feel, sure. People wise, maybe. Good looking, but with much more charming accents.

The first night, I walked in and the owner in the Times guide was there to greet me. He treated me like I was like his best friend. You see, if you wear a blazer and big scarf in warm weather, the French will think you’re one of them. When he sat me down, he started laughing and talking in French to the people sitting across from me. I waved at them, then he said to the people in English, “We’re going to move to San Francisco.” Yeah, I had no response for that.

The cheeseburgers is what you are getting, and it was legit. The brioche bun might be big but since it’s a French made that thing was a thing of beauty. Solid fries. Solid booze. This place goes on my must-visit list.

I would have stayed longer but since I had one full day the next day to visit the city. In the back of my head, if I felt up for it, I would come back the next day.

The cheeseburger called to me the next night, so I had to come back. The second night I sat at the bar and met some locals and business people. Turns out, one of the guy’s sons lives in Jersey! The owner found me there and gave me a big hug and kisses on the cheek. Damn, how come people don’t great me like that back in America?

Probably my crowning moment of visit to Morocco, I typed in my Google translate from English to French, Pouvez-vous jouer Daft Punk? (Can you play Daft Punk?) and showed this to the DJ. Thus, he played Daft Punk. How’s that for a baller move?

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Inside Le Musée Abderrahman Slaoui in Casablanca

If you’re looking for some unique art and antiques in Casablanca that you can just breeze through in 30 minutes or an hour, than head over to Musée de la Fondation Abderrahman Slaoui. The private collection of a local successful businessman Slaoui showcases his taste for advertising and travel posters, modern art, jewelry and glassworks.

Opened in 2001 by the family before his death, you can find artifacts from the 1860s to 1960s. The posters was what blew my mind, displaying Arabic figures in dessert settings. I have a deep love of vintage travel ads so I had to buy their postcard collection.

You can head up to the third floor for some mint tea and to browse their library to find other modern Moroccan artwork.

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Al Mounia in Casablanca Was the Best Meal I Had in Morocco

One of the concepts that comes in travel is the search for authenticity — that quintessential experience that can’t be replicated. We see in our daily lives when we dine at ethnic restaurants in America or buy a jar of pasta sauce that claims to be authentic.

Thus, when you’re in Morocco, you want to have a meal out of a tagine served by a man in a fez while surrounded by Moroccan interiors. Founded in 1958 and located near Casablanca city center, Al Mounia satisfies all your stereotypes of Moroccan dining sans the belly dancers.

One of the oldest restaurants in the city, it’s the one restaurant everyone will agree is a must visit. When you walk through the courtyard into the main dining area, you realize that this is the prototype Moroccan restaurant that other “authentic” Moroccan restaurants try to copy.

It’s a true culinary iconic restaurant that tourists and locals frequent. Thinking it would be crowded for dinner, I went during lunchtime and was the first person to arrive. At least I can have my meal is peace.

My fez-wearing pointed out that he was in the NY Times 36 Hours In video that highlighted Al Mounia. I called it up on my phone, and there he was.

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The menu is traditional Moroccan cuisine highlighting it’s French influences. I started with their famous savoy pastilla — filo dough filled with spiced chicken or lamb and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar.

My main was the chicken and almond served with hearty bread. It’s a simple dish but, damn, it was mighty tasty. The combo pf the sweet almonds and savory chicken in broth was amazing. Then the bread you can soak up all the juices. Drinking it up with some mint tea and you have yourself the best meal in the whole country.

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Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh Is Great for Looking at Tiles

If you survive the walk along Rue Ibn Rochd to the Kasbah, one of the places you can visit is the Saadian Tombs. If you are lucky enough like me, you won’t even pay to get in. Just picture a dopey American saying, “Helllo …. helloooo … bonjour ……” at the entrance for three minutes seeing if anyone wants to take my money. I just put down a 20 MAD coin as to not set off an international incident.

Located next to the Kasbah Mosque, the tombs were built for Saadian Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour ed-Dahbi using the finest Italian marble available to him. Ahhhhh, that’s a Sultan with taste.

Inside the courtyard are graves for his wives and close associates. The Sultan eventually died in 1603 and the tombs were walled off from the outside world. That was until 1917 when it discovered via aerial photography. Now, you can enjoy a lot beautiful tile work and architecture.

Your whole visit should last no more than 20 minutes. Like Ben Youssef Medersa, there’s no guide or explanation of the grounds so use your imagination.

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Photos of the Marrakesh Souks, Where I Don’t Recommend Riding A Bike

There’s all sorts of traffic going in and out of the souks. You have human, donkeys dragging carts, mopeds, motorcycles, rickshaws and bicycles. What I didn’t see were rollerblades, segways, skateboards or hoverboards.

In my attempt to experience Marrakesh as the locals do, to kind of blend into the everyday existence, I got a bike to venture around the winding pathways. Looking back at it, it feels like a suicidal cry for help.

For the most part, I took a leisurely ride through all the merchants until I got stuck in a crowd and had to dismount. With my camera, I was playing the part of travel photography trying to capture everyday life like I was shooting for National Geographic. Yeah, not so much. It was more trouble than it was worth. I can have easily run over a cat and then go head first into a pile of leather bags.

As I’ve mentioned to other travelers, I’ve biked in many exotic places — Tokyo Beijing, Prague, Stockholm — but refuse to do it New York. Mother fuckers will flat aim for your ass there.

Here’s what I shot in the Medina.

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