Diasporama #17 : Badr Ghannam, from Marrakech to Japan to open Casablanca the restaurant

Badr Ghannam is a Moroccan national living in Japan. His love for the Asian culture enabled him to run a restaurant in one of Japan's smaller cities, introducing his culture to one of the farthest corners of the world. Portrait.

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Badr Ghannam, owner of Casablanca the restaurant in Japan./Ph. Badr Ghannam

His ambitious dreams made him cross the seas to live in one of the farthest countries from his homeland. Badr Ghannam, a young entrepreneur from Morocco, is the owner of Casablanca the restaurant located in Nagoya, capital of Japan’s Aichi Prefecture. With his joyful voice and welcoming introduction, Badr was happy to share with Yabiladi his story and tell us about his business.

«I am originally from Marrakech, I studied there and graduated high school. After working in Morocco I decided to immigrate», said Badr. Before landing in Japan, he spent some time in South Korea and two years later he moved to Nagoya. «I was exactly 23 years old when I came to Japan. After working here and there, I decided that I wanted to live there».

Discovering the Eastern culture

Moving to a country that has a completely different culture from ours was not a big deal for the Marrakech-native. In fact, Badr knew the language, the culture and he even had family members living in Eastern Asia. «I have always been attracted to Asia because I had family members there and even when I was living with my parents in Marrakech we received guests from Japan», explained the 34-year-old man.

«So, since an early age I was able to count in Japanese and I started learning the language».

Encouraged by his Asian friends and relatives, Badr settled down in Nagoya. «My friends here told me that I have all the means to make it in the country. I am from Marrakech, so I had the charisma for it and I must admit my sense of humor helped me a lot».

Indeed, Badr started working for his aunt who was the first owner of Casablanca the restaurant. «The restaurant was opened in 2001 and it was founded by my aunt. I started working for her starting from 2006 and I quite liked it», said Badr adding that «two years ago I bought the restaurant from my aunt».

Casablanca the restaurant

Although he never studied cooking, the young man was able to impress his customers. «I am the one taking care of the kitchen at the restaurant cooking dishes my mom cooked back home and relying completely on my memory, recalling homemade recipes I was introduced to during my childhood» Surprised by the outcome Badr declared in a proud voice : «Surprisingly, our customers love the food».

When asked about what Japanese people think of the Moroccan cuisine, Badr insisted saying : «People who come to our restaurant and eat Moroccan food for the first time believe that we have added something to it that made it taste like Asian food. Maybe, the spices we use make them get that feeling but it is all made the Moroccan way.»

Badr's restaurant is there to break up with the idea Japanese people have about Morocco. According to Badr's experience, they think that Africa has a unified culture and that Morocco is just like any other African country in the continent. «When they come to the restaurant, they come with the idea that the food is very spicy but they realize at the end that it is totally different», Badr told Yabiladi.

Introducing Morocco

Becoming an entrepreneur in Nagoya was easier for Badr that in any other country. For him Japan «helps young entrepreneurs through granting them loans with a very encouraging interest rate. I had a loan with a 1 percent interest rate and I am about to finish it».

Casablanca the restaurant is also visited by Moroccans residing in Japan, including students. It is also, as Badr called it, an "embassy" for Morocco in Nagoa. «People come constantly asking about Morocco, the culture, the customs and the food», he said.

«Even those who plan to travel to Morocco come here to get advice. The same way for those who visit Morocco, they come here to share their stories, show us their photos and tell us about their adventures there.»

Married to a Japanese woman and father to a one-year-old boy, Badr Ghannami was able to fit in and build himself and his business a name in this small city in Japan. His love for traveling and his attachment to Morocco were a good combination for a successful business.

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