Although the restaurant owner denied the claims when speaking to MWN, the number of people coming forward accusing the restaurant of racism is hard to ignore.
Rabat – One of Marrakech’s most popular restaurants, Le Salama, is under fire for supposedly turning away Moroccans and only letting foreigners in.
Moroccan photographer, Amira Azzouzi, was the first to draw attention to the issue on her Instagram account (@azamira), which has 13.6 thousand followers, in a series of stories. Azzouzi posted that she believes the restaurant does not accept Moroccans to maintain their reputation as a tourist hub, especially for the good-looking European kind.
Azzouzi also spoke to Morocco World News, detailing her experience with the restaurant, which is owned by a Moroccan man, Nordine Fakir. Le Salama initially contacted her, she said, asking if she could photograph their restaurant. She quickly agreed and a date and time were agreed on.
However, when she showed up to the restaurant at the scheduled time, with a friend in tow, security wouldn’t let her in as the restaurant was supposedly “full.” As she stood there trying to contact management so they could tell the bouncers to let her in, she watched them wave “two blonde tourists in, without being questioned at all.”
Realizing she had been lied to about the restaurant being at full capacity, she then called reception who confirmed there was indeed space available at that moment. “When I tried to tell the receptionist what happened, she hung up on me,” Azzouzi told MWN.
“I tried to call back five or six times, and eventually, she answered, but was super rude to me,” she continued. When she spoke to family and friends about the incident, she found others had had similar experiences.
“I was outraged, so I decided to speak about it openly on my Instagram stories,” she said. “I was then overwhelmed by the responses, a lot of people had experienced the same thing at Le Salama, and others told me about other places that practice this ridiculous form of segregation.”
Azzouzi’s story, one told by many
Although the restaurant has since removed the ability to post and see reviews on their Facebook page, the screenshots circulating online from before the feature was removed seem to further substantiate Azzouzi’s story.
“Apparently, the servers are the only ones allowed to not be blonde in this restaurant,” said one comment, echoing the sentiments of many others. “In France, it would be an absolute scandal if a restaurant was turning away Arabs. But in Morocco… and coming from a Moroccan… It’s pathetic and incomprehensible,” the user continued.
The discrimination from the restaurant Moroccans are reporting seems to not be a recent thing, with complaints dating back long before Azzouzi came forward.
Another woman, named Selima Zr, took to Facebook in February to condemn the restaurant.
“I never thought I would live an episode of racism in my own country. On the evening of February 8, we made a reservation at the restaurant Le Salama Marrakech. A woman named Karima asked us which riad we came from after we confirmed the reservation.
“Once there, we were told that there was no reservation in our name. We were at the door waiting for someone to come down to give us an explanation while Europeans entered freely without reservation,” the post read.
“Finally, the woman with whom we made the reservation told us that a riad more important than ours had made a reservation. I told her that it was not professional to cancel a reservation without warning. I asked her for a claims book, but her answer was a no with a mocking smile.”
“All this because we are Moroccans and they only wanted Europeans. I wanted to cry, I never felt so much scorn and exclusion. She was rude, disrespectful and lying. Afterward, we knew that no riad had made a reservation, it was just an excuse. They are CLASSISTS AND RACISTS!”
Selima also alleges that she, too, had many people come forward with similar stories after hearing hers. She also claims that the restaurant blocked her on Facebook and deleted her comments.
Selima attached dozens of reviews to the post, of people shaming the restaurant for being racist and turning them away, just as they did to Selima and Azzouzi. Several people even claimed that the restaurant asked them for their passports and their religion at the reception.
Le Salama hits back, denying the claims
Morocco World News contacted Le Salama for a statement, and the restaurant simply responded: “Our restaurant is open to all. We are looking for customers and not nationalities.” A photo was also attached to the message, an apparent collage of Moroccans in the restaurant:
While Moroccans are represented on the restaurant’s Instagram, especially influential and conventionally attractive ones, such as Moroccan singer Redone, the page is mostly overwhelmed by photos of young, blonde women.
The restaurant owner Nordine Fakir has been flat-out denying the claims to multiple outlets, telling Telquel: that “any person with the characteristics of a customer is welcome, regardless of their origins, religion, or nationality.”
“We are in Morocco, the restaurant is run by Moroccans, all the staff is Moroccan. I do not understand how, or why, we would do such a thing,” said Fakir. “There may have been confusion when customers come and ask for coffee because we are located in Jamâa El Fna, but in these cases, we simply explain that it is a restaurant.”
He does admit that the restaurant mostly has foreign clientele, but says: “We are a Moroccan restaurant, offering traditional Moroccan cuisine, so of course our clientele will be mainly foreign.”
“This is not a choice or a selection that we make, and it is not because we do not accept Moroccans. This is simply because in general, it does not interest Moroccans to eat a tajine.”