To the seaside
Rested, feeling, much more myself and wearing what I had planned for my day out to the seaside; I was up bright and early. Looking forward to my next trip to the port of Essaouira; recommended as a calming contrast to the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh.
Through the hotel door at eight o’clock on the dot, a man wearing a traditional Berber over tunic, in dark brown, was sent in my direction by reception. He introduced himself as Mbarek my guide, and he led me out to the waiting car. Once more, I was delighted to find I was touring “a la posh”, only person on tour with both chauffeur and guide to my self.
Weaving our way out of the city to the motorway, my guide put me on fast track to increasing my knowledge on Morocco, most of which I didn’t know. He explained he was a Berber from the Atlas Mountains, sensing his pride in his roots, I felt an immediate connection, as a Scot I could relate to this sense of belonging.
First stop a roadside café, with one of the best single espressos I have had in a long time – I am very particular about my coffee – always black and in the right size of cup for the style of coffee. Accompanied by a pastry similar to baklava; groaning with crushed nuts, a gentle touch of honey though not drowned in sugar syrup.
Then there was a photo stop to see the goats in the Argan tree;
the young goatherds came rushing over for a photo and encouraged me to hold a young kid in my arms. It was bleating wildly and I refused though stroked him, he was silky and soft. Having seen the tree that produce the nuts, the next stop was to visit a woman’s coop that produced oil for cosmetic and culinary use. www.afousargan.ma The current King has encouraged the formation of female coops so women can find work in traditional artisan industries and become financially independent.
I am a fan of Argan oil and stocked up including Argan cooking oil, until then I thought it was only for cosmetic use. The nuts are crushed raw for beauty products, but for cooking oil, they are roasted before crushing. I’ve not cooked with my oil yet. Another photo stop for a panoramic view of our principal destination, this time photo with a camel.
I refused a ride; I did an elephant ride in India and was not happy with myself for doing that, so no beasts of burden rides on this trip.
En route, we had seen several police spot checks that are now routine, not long from Essaouria we were stopped, though I was to pass a lot more in the next few days, this was the only occasion I was pulled over. The driver was questioned, I understood Scotlanda as I was pulling out my passport but they didn’t bother to check and we were waved on.
On arrival in Essaouira; our first stop was the outside fish market, located in the harbour. I was fascinated trying to identify the array on display. I had learned when I lived in Spain, trying to find out the names of fish species is a linguistic challenge; they often change names from region to region within countries. It also provides a creative challenge for a cook who likes to experiment.
The fish was very fresh – various types of eel, hake, large flat fish and lots of sardines. The market was also heaving with cats, intelligent creatures that they are they know how to locate a good thing.
I had already seen a lot of cats in Marrakesh and all looking in pretty good condition. However, my guilt and concern about Sophie increased at every meow.
I calmed down when we reached the Medina, my mobile picked up a signal and my phone was barraged with text messages. I stopped to check no voice mail or message from the cattery; I didn’t bother about any of the other stuff. I finally relaxed though collecting her on my return – I was told she had pined and not eaten or drank for the first four days. She’s fine now, and ruling the roost again!
The medina is lighter and not as crammed as Marrakesh and a more gentle shopping experience. We made our way up to the old fortifications and I looked out over to the Atlantic, watching it crash onto the rocks below. I love watching the sea and I can watch waves reach the shore forever.
Time for lunch and I had seafood tagine with mussels, prawns, and squid. Rested and revved up, we returned to visit the Medina including the artisan marquetry workshop. I am now the owner of a beautiful round jewellery box, I love opening the drawers as the wood scent remains, and a gift for a friend, if she’s reading this she’ll know what it is but not what it looks like. There were several things I would have loved but although air travel has made the world a much smaller place, budget airlines weight allowances can turn the joy of holiday shopping into a costly nightmare.
Through the old slave market, Essaouira had once been held by the Portuguese and most of the slaves were sent to Brazil, it still had an eerie feel to it, past the Jewish quarter and a visit to another silver workshop that employs deaf and dumb people.
Shopping and serendipity
I had always regretted not buying a ring that I had seen in Jaipur, I don’t now. Unpressurised, I looked at the riveting range of rings on display and found two lovely ones, a stunning opal and zircon and another that can only de described as a rainbow flower ring. It coordinates with all my summer clothes because it is like two rings in one. Depending on the way you put it on the light catches the different stones. Serendipity was out to play again when I found another ring that was a mini version of the bracelet I had bought the day before, it was added to the basket along with a very original pendant of rose quartz set in silver.
I had noticed on the way in that I was colour coordinated once more with my surroundings,
so on leaving the workshop I asked Mbarek to take my photo explaining why. His reaction was different to the young women the day before, he started laughing but obliging and kind as ever took my photo. The return journey was uneventful but peppered with lots of great chat and info. My impressions of the day before were confirmed, Morocco was my type of place.