People of Marrakech #01 [en]

Sihmed and the Hammam’s heat

When I travel in a relatively poor country, sometimes I find myself thinking in terms of „how can you live like this… these people almost own nothing and yet, they are happy… maybe even happier than we are…“ and I hate myself for this, because I think, it is a stupid thing to think.

One day, I had an interview with a girl who emigrated from Angola to my hometown. Her family was forced to leave the country, because her father died and they could not afford the costs for her school. I asked her what she appreciates most about her culture and origin. Do you know what she said?

In my culture, people almost own nothing. But yet, they are very happy. This is something you could learn from us.

Closed to the Medina of Marrakech, I came by this Hammam.
A friend of mine introduced me to the place, so I met the heater. His name is Sihmed. He is the farnatchi – the man who is in charge of the fire in a Hammam. He stands beneath a bunch of olive branches he uses as firewood.

Sihmed works from 6 am to 11 in the evening. Every single day in the week.

Sometimes he finds some olives left on the dry branches. He takes them off and put them into saltwater. This way he can earn some more money.

Beneath the fire, he puts some glow. People bring their meal to be cooked. In their own pot, it ferments there for several hours. After it is done, they pick it up again.

Sihmed lives in the Hammam. Beneath the oven and under the thick pipes of hot water he has a bed. The hammam’s fire is his life.

Without the farnatchi there is no fire. There is no heat without fire. Without the heat, there is no salvation.

Is he happy?
I don’t know. All I can say: to meet Sihmed feels like there is somebody who has found his vocation.

[back to my series #peopleofmarrakech]