Friday, July 27, 2018

Casablanca loses an icon - 'Madame Rick'

Kathy Kriger, former American diplomat and founder of the renowned Rick’s Cafe Casablanca, passed away on Thursday July 26th, aged 72 

US-Moroccan relations have lost a champion. Kathy Kriger first came to Casablanca as a diplomat, but soon fell in love with Morocco. She made Rick’s Café in the classic film Casablanca into reality, and was a larger-than-life figure in the community. We will miss her dearly - U.S. Embassy Morocco

Kathy was a good friend and avid supporter of The View From Fez. When she published her book, Rick’s Cafe: Bringing the Film Legend to Life in Casablanca, she asked Suzanna Clarke to write the forward She last visited us in Fez about a month ago, and sat on our terrace sharing her plans. News of her death came as a huge shock, as she appeared to be in very good health and was excited about her new venture - turning the building next to Rick's Cafe into a boutique hotel.

Kriger, born and raised near Portland, Oregon,  founded her own travel agency and then traveled the world before settling in Morocco.
"I have lived in Morocco since 1998, serving as the commercial counselor for the U.S. Embassy. In the aftermath of 9/11, I decided to leave the government, stay in Morocco and do something that demonstrated true American values. Developing a Rick's Café in Casablanca seemed like a perfect way to do this." - Kathy Kriger

Kathy Kriger took an old courtyard-style mansion built in 1930, located in the ancient medina of Casablanca and set about renovating with the help of renowned interior designer, the late Bill Willis.

The project took two years to complete and opened on March 1, 2004 to rave reviews. Sceptics who thought it might have been a Disney-style kitsch version of Rick's Cafe could not have been more wrong.

A longtime fan of  the 1942 classic “Casablanca” from when she first saw it in 1974, Kriger had the movie on continual loop in the upstairs bar of Rick's Cafe. Most nights she could be found standing at the corner of the bar, earning her the nickname “Madame Rick.” She used to instruct waiters to refill her wine glass only with water until 11 p.m., after which she allowed herself a glass of Moroccan Val D’Argan Blanc.

Kriger’s goal was to make Rick’s Cafe Casablanca, “everything it was in the movie, and then some.” She also sought to prove that an American woman operating alone in a Muslim society can run a successful business.

As well, Kriger, wanted to convey a powerful message. After the considerable backlash against Muslims in America following the 9/11 attacks, she aimed to create a place of tolerance and unity. When The View From Fez last went to dinner there two weeks ago, Rick's Cafe was filled with tourists from all over the world and also locals, all throughly enjoying the wonderful food, excellent service and delightful ambience. Kathy Kriger had fully succeeded.

The cause of Kriger's unexpected death has not been released.

Vale Kathy Kriger. You will be sorely missed and fondly remembered. 


1 comment:

Patricia said...

It breaks my heart that Kathy has died. She was such a trailblazer. I talked with a Casablanca friend who had lunch with her just a few days before her death and said she was in great spirits and seemed in great health. I was looking forward to seeing her while in Morocco next month. She is an icon and will be sorely missed.