By MICHELLE DUTRO
(Ambient sounds of water sloshing, clothes being raked over washboards and women chatting)
The public laundry is bustling.
This isn’t at all like your local, fluorescent-lit Laundromat where you pop in a few quarters and wait while the suds get to work. RasLma rests across a small river in Chefchaouen, Morocco. Complete with waterfalls, sparkling clarity and lush green vegetation, this place is a paradise.
The river is flanked by two open-air structures, each containing a handful of washing tubs. The water from the river flows into a channel that runs between 12 tubs, feeding into each one. The basins are filled with bubbles as women gather to socialize through the rhythmic task, rubbing each garment up and down on a washboard.
Rugs hang to dry on the walls of a walk way above the river, dripping clothes cover the surrounding trees, men relax drinking tea in a nearby café and children splash around in the shallows.
Although every house has running water, many women still choose to use this public laundry. Before water could be piped into each home, families relied completely on the river. But now, Moroccans are being charged for a resource they once got for free.
After complaints, the city built the facilities at RasLma, offering free access to the water.
The river is Chefchaouen’s only source of drinking water. Located at the base of the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco, the city would likely not have been built if not for the consistent trickle from the melting ice pack of the mountains.
The strikingly clear water resembles the characteristic blue of Chefchaouen, as if it once flooded the city and splashed its color on the walls.