As we are walking around the Place Mohamed V in Casablanca,we are accosted by the sound of clanging metal.
We turn to see this apparition in red, with a string of brightly polished cups around his neck and a large leather skin hanging about his waist. All topped off with a multicoloured chapeau made of threads in different hues.
This is the iconic water seller or guérrab. Historically, they would fetch water from the oases and other water sources and dispense it to thirsty travellers, fresh from the desert to trade in the souks. For a few dirhams, the colorfully dressed water seller would quench their thirst, dispensing water in their shallow copper or brass cups from their goatskin or camel skin bladders.The water seller often flavoured the water with mint or lemon to mask the inherent taste of the leather skins.
For the Berbers of the desert, water is life, and the water seller was tasked with carrying this most precious of commodities. In Islamic law as well, there is a concept of “Chafa” – the Right of Water, which entitles anyone, Muslim and non Muslim, to access water for themselves and their animals.
Today, these purveyors of an ancient desert tradition are more likely to act as fancy dress props in tourist photographs. You’ll find them in cities now, cities like Casablanca, modern and cosmopolitan. Miles away from desert and tradition.
Note : Travellers should not drink this water in the interests of health safety. The cups are used communally without washing. You should pay for the water in order to take the photograph.