Poverty in Morocco, and a Moroccan Family Living in a Toilet

A BBC article about a Moroccan family living in a toilet as well as a blogger's experience with smelly bus rides (Knarf in the City: “Rush Hour“) sparked a discussion about poverty in Morocco.

Cat in Rabat remarked upon unpleasant smelling classes, and continued:

Having said that, the children and their clothes were, at least, superficially clean and always wore their ‘Sunday best'; in fact, they often wore the same outfit every class probably because they only owned one set of decent clothes.

Why did they smell? Many of Morocco's poor rely on a weekly trip to the hammam (public bath) to get scrubbed and scoured and splashed clean…

The blogger quoted an earlier post from The Morocco Report in which the worst jobs in Morocco were discussed, naming “hammam attendant” as #1:

Imagine scrubbing the dead skin off human bodies all day long, sitting in wet clothes and sweat, pausing only for a sip of water or an orange, because for every body you scrub, you might get ten or twenty dirhams. Such is the life of a hammam worker.

Cat in Rabat transitioned into a discussion about the aforementioned BBC article…

…A family of toilet squatters who were barricaded from their ‘home’ (a home replete with a noxious zoo of various vermin and god-knows what airborne distempers) with cement and concrete. Why such draconian measures? What was their crime? – Mr. Baja had had the effrontery to go to the press seeking assistance in raising public awareness to their plight. Blocking access to the toilets was a bit of a double whammy: not only is a family now out on the street, but Mr. Baja no longer has the means to earn his bread – a living which had hitherto been less than $30.00 a month.

And Mr. Baja? – he just wants to get the hell out of Dodge. Of course, he has no money and no way of acquiring the legal means to emigrate so, instead, he's considering crossing the Straits of Gibraltar in the rusty hull of a freighter (which will probably be apprehended) or in a rickety fishing boat (which will probably capsize). He has run out of alternatives.

The Morocco Report also blogged the story, saying:

Anyhow, after that there’s the poor. Not a whole lot of in-between. The poor sometimes live in the medina homes their families have owned for literally hundreds of years, usually without modern plumbing, sometimes without electricity. Other times they live in shanty towns or slums, with corrugated metal roofs held down by rocks. And then there are the homeless.

Shanty house outside Chellah, Rabat

Daniel Sturgis: The Struggling Beach Buggy Travel Writer in Morocco had a different take on the article:

I wouldn't put too much stock in what the “toilet guy” says. Perhaps, events in some form or another like he said might have happened. I doubt he'd pass a lie detector test on all the facts however.

First of all, what are these toilets and how did he get his job? Likely, he came off the street and worked for tips, one of countless toilet people who leave a dish for tips on a rickety wooden chair outside public toilets. Inside, the toilets always seem to remain filthy and stinking. The “toilet cleaners” don't put their “not so hard” earned money to good use and invest in a bottle of bleach every so often.

In a final comment about poverty in Morocco, I will share this poignant comment from Everything Morocco posted at The Morocco Report:

Having lived in Fez medina for a long time now, I have to comment on this matter of people smelling bad or clothes not being clean – and pardon me if this gets long.

First, not all homes have water or can afford it if they do, so the family carries it to the house from the public fountain – my neighborhood is an example. Public water is free. Nor do they have washing machines (or laundromats) so all clothes are scrubbed by hand – at the public fountain. Everything is done at that fountain that can be done to stretch the family’s income.

Deodorant at 30 dh minimum per can is a whole day’s wages for an illiterate unskilled laborer. Food – or deodorant? Also, when I lived in Germany in the 80s, the buses were as rank as any here and that’s because they just didn’t want to buy a cosmetic product they considered luxurious.

Soap is cheap, yes, but again, cold water and a bucket at the public fountain – and wearing the same clothes you’ve worn all week anyway. Maybe the only clothes you own. And even if you have two sets, how much work can a woman raising a family of four, five or six kids handle anyway? And all that washing wears the clothes out faster and they may not have the money to replace them.


  • world citizen

    poverty in Morocco? You gotta be kidding me. I’m assuming these bloggers have been in the US or Europe …even rich countries like that have poor people …even worse i was in North carolina years back and believe me i thought i was in some poor african country…but that’s not the point, i’m old school if i see something that touches me i would try to help instead of reporting it as some:”oh my God i can’t believe these people are dirty and they smell….”
    We give used clothes to the salvation army in this country why can’t you do the same….and by the way i am Moroccan

  • First of all, while I can’t speak for everyone I quoted, I know that some of those bloggers DO help out in Morocco. Personally, I volunteer my time and my old clothes, and would do more had I not a full time job as well.

    But you’re right – there is poverty everywhere; the US, Europe…these blogs just happen to be about Morocco.

  • Ditto. I gave up a year of weekends to work with these disenfranchised kids and, like Jillian, regularly donate my clothes (which is regular since my laundry continually shrinks my clothes) to an orphanage. I would do more but am constrained by time & language barriers.

    I’m not too sure that I like World Citizen’s tone.

    Do you know what that means this word?
    Poverty of mind, thinking and writing also exist.
    Well I have been everywhere and i know the poverty in USA, UK, Europe, Canada…EVERYWHERE. BUT the worse i have seen in Europe and USA where people seem happy being from the middle class but poor because many reasons…and you know that life is very expensive for the working class and even the middle one…Taxes, prices of food and living are rising…I meet every time i go to Morocco a huge number of immigrants coming from France, Belgium, Holland, UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Spain…seeking the beautiful and not expensive life in Morocco because they cannot afford to find the same quality of life in their countries…And Morocco is the best country you can stay…You are very welcome ..Do not worry you will not stay in toilets…Unless you are looking for it..
    On your picture i cannot see people staying on the toilets…It is time to change our attitudes and to be responsible travelers.
    Thank you for reading

  • Hey have a look at these links…
    I would like just to give you an example from BBC…you will find more and more…SO BE RESPONSIBLE …AND No COMMENT!

  • al

    my comment to adam there is no poverety in morocco it’s that what you mean you are ####### ignorante you don’t know nothing go educate your self before star talking about morocco am goig to say one thing how much the ging earn a year you don’t know because if you do .you don’t say welcom to morocco you are not goig to live in toilet how much morocco spend from his buget on health care 5% on education we have ignorane like you but you by choice them they can’t there is no school in rural area morocco spend 45% on armes

  • Good coverage of the Moroccan blogoma.

    But is it possible to cover also what Moroccan blogs in Arabic had to say?

    Thank you!

  • Ahmed

    Hi guys:
    I am established and live in Toronto, Canada. I have made “street children” one of the main areas I would like to contribute in and give back to my community.

    As I was searching to join organizations that can help or to even start an NGO with that focus, I found this blog. Having myself lived and traveled everywhere in Morocco, I have seen children in the streets beaten, abused and largely poor trying to make a living with whatever they can. I believe that education is definitely one of the best strategies. I don’t deny that you see situations like this everywhere in the world but I think we should all think about ways that canhelp everywhere we can. I am Moroccan and I know that area very well and looking forward to help out.

    Please let me know of credible organizations or any idea aligned with endavour.


  • Victor Sandall

    Heard about Mr Baja and family on BBC “World Service”, Sun 08 Jly 07.

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