The Instinct of Intuition (bilingual)

This poem is the longest work I’ve ever  had in draft. I began it in 2002/03 when I was coming to terms with trusting my intuition. I am sure like many others, we would be rich if we had followed that inner voice and not been left saying “if only” I had trusted my gut feeling, as I have done on too many occasions throughout my life. I still don’t go with my gut instincts as much as I should, but I do so more than I used to. Nevertheless, this poem wouldn’t come together for me. I would get it out, play about with it but nothing felt right. Looking for more poems to publish this summer I came across it again and this time it fell into place, many lines were edited, then the structure showed itself. A sign perhaps that I am even more in tune with that wonderful gift we all have, call it what you like – our intuition, sixth sense, the gut instinct, trust it.  This poem is dedicated to my intuition.

The Instinct of intuition

Deep, deep down, almost drowned,

Draining, doubting, maiming,

By denying and analysing.

Yet always faithful, always around

Secure fighting to resist and endure

Rejection forcing pain, pushing, lying.

Yet never betraying, never blaming.

A warrior waging a wearisome war.

The strength of Intuition

 

Warnings here, warnings there,

Clouded twisted sunk by mental muck.

Pushing, punishing, judging,

Potholes penetrating.

Arid no longer free to care.

Sparks of light, gasping glimmering

Instinct strong, instinct secure

Against dreary drudgery and lure.

The dignity of intuition

 

The gut confronting the confusions of the head.

Comments of others criticising,

Crowding in, squeezing out

The real me and my trusted friend.

Left lacklustre and listless

Slowly painfully, intuition explodes.

Peace filled light spitting out the barren night

Courage produced to dare,

The power of Intuition.

 

Empowered with vision and insight

Brimming with energy, loaded with might.

No more walking the tightrope

Between bitter night and blistering sight.

Soul is stirred, spirit is awakened,

Mists of memory swirl and shift.

Overlapping light and time

To senses soothed, shimmering with

The clarity of intuition.

 

High prices paid in health and hope

Though intuition has remained

Steadfast and sound.

Listen, feel, follow, see

To value life suffer the pain,

A final destination to begin again.

A mind’s mosaic of sunlight

The magic mandala of creative mystery.

Accepting the beauty of intuition

floral mosaic

floral mosaic

 

De profundidad, en el fondo, casi ahogado,

Machacado, mutilado con las dudas

Al negar y analizar.

Sin embargo, siempre fiel, siempre cerca.

La lucha segura para resistir y perdurar.

Rechazo forzando el dolor, empuja la mentira.

A pesar de todo, nunca traiciona, tampoco culpa.

Un guerrero luchando una guerra fatigosa

La fuerza de la intuición.

 

Advertencias aquí, advertencias allí.

Nublados torcidos, hundidos por lodo mental,

Concita, castiga, y juzga,

Baches penetrantes.

Árido, no es libre para preocupar.

Las chispas de la luz, vislumbran tremolando tenuemente.

Fuerte instinto, intuición seguro

Contra la monotonía triste y señuelo.

La dignidad de la intuición

 

La tripa enfrenta las confusiones de la cabeza.

Las voces de los de mas agotan con la critica

El hacinamiento y el exprimiendo

Del verdadero yo y mi amigo de confianza

Dejado mediocre iy apático.

Lentamente, dolorosamente, explota la intuición

Paz lleno de luz escupe la noche estéril

El valor producido se atreve

El poder de la intuición.

 

Fortalecido con la visión y la perspicacia.

Rebosante de energía, cargada con poder.

No más caminos por la cuerda floja.

Entre la noche amarga y la vista feroz

El alma está agitada, el espíritu está despertado.

Las nieblas de la memoria bailan como molinos

La superposición de la luz y el tiempo

A sentidos calmados, brillando con

La claridad de la intuición.

 

Los precios altos pagados en la salud y la esperanza.

Aunque la intuición se ha quedado

Con firmeza y solidez.

Escucha, siente, segué, ve

Para valorar la vida sufre el dolor,

Un destino final para comenzar de nuevo,

EL mosaico de la mente llena de la luz del sol.

El mándala magia del misterio creativo

La aceptación de la belleza de la intuición

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Morocco 6: Mastering the Marrakesh Medina, maybe.

Plans

I awoke on my final day to bright, blue, and beautiful sky. My hammam (steam bath) was booked for 5pm. My plan – to visit the medina, locate the spa and return to relax in the Majorelle gardens. I should have known better, plans did not go to plan in Morocco.

Tackling the Medina Alone

After breakfast I took a taxi to the café de France, I could remember where I had left the souks after the cooking class on Saturday and was sure I’d be there in a couple of turns. For the first time unaccompanied, I entered the medina. I began by looking for the bunting that I had seen on Saturday when Karima the cooking teacher had taken us to the spa to book. The banners were nowhere to be seen; my first signpost had vanished. I realised later it had been extra publicity due to the weekend of the marathon.

I got hideously lost, had wares touted in my face at every stall and as I passed the same stalls for the third time, the stall owners were beginning to recognise me. Feet aching, I managed to make my way back to the main square and ordered a coffee, single espresso of course, at the café de France and checked out my map, cursing the lack of mobile coverage.

The Thread

The medina is a labyrinth and I needed to locate my mental thread on something. The tallest buildings were the minarets on the mosques; each one was a different colour, one was white, another green and one pink. The minaret nearest the entrance I needed was the green one. Revived and refreshed I trailed round again. I discovered the Marrakesh cultural heritage museum and went in gladly paying the small fee.

One of the pots on the roof of the cultural heritage museum

One of the pots on the roof of the cultural heritage museum

Located in a riad, these are oases of calm from the hustle and bustle of the souks. I spent a gentle hour wandering around, ordered a mint tea on the roof top restaurant and relaxed. The young woman on reception had studied in York in the UK and gave me directions.

Getting Help

I set out again, once more I went passed the same stalls, I purchased my last gifts and by the time I passed the Tuareg stall holder, swathed in Sahara blue, for the fourth time; he stopped me. I explained, he spoke to the carpet stall holders in front, they got out their mobile, located the spa on Google and let me speak to the bloke on reception. I wasn’t far.

I took a deep breath and made the turn again and I realised my mistake. There are main streets and the lanes off them are cul-de-sacs but connect to the main street by name. I had been in the right street but had turned down the first alley not the second. At the corner of the correct alley, there was an underwear shop, convenient if you fancied a hamman and hadn’t brought a change of underwear with you. I made my way to the spa, now sure of my bearings and added a pedicure to my treatment package. It was now 2 o’clock, I had arrived before 11, the Majorelle was now out of the question so I made my way back, keeping the minaret in sight. I decided to return to the heritage museum and have lunch. Passing the same traders again, I sensed their admiration as I walked confidently and I located the museum.

Meatballs in the Museum

The tension had gone and I ordered cucumber and mint juice to accompany one of my favourite dishes kofta, spicy meatballs. Bathed in chilli tomato sauce and set with egg, they were juicy, moreish, and comforting.

Kofta, meatballs

Kofta, meatballs

Clay oven, roof cultural heritage museum.

Clay oven, roof cultural heritage museum.

 

I met a couple of fellow Scots, and we found we were on the same flight back the following day. We met again at the luggage carousel, none of looking forward to the dark bitter February night that waited outside after the wonderful sunshine.

The final treat

However, I had my final Moroccan experience to do. Relaxed and confident I made my way to the spa once more. Crossing the threshold was entering another world, the décor inspired by ancient Egypt. I was lead up stairs to the steam room. An hour later, scrubbed and sluiced I was lead to the massage room.

Flowers in the spa waiting room

Flowers in the spa waiting room

The central area in the spa.

The central area in the spa.

With muscles warmed and relaxed, it was the most beneficial massage I have ever had. Finally the pedicure, done in the traditional manner, the young podiatrist managed to tackle my toes in a way no one has in a long time. The pumice stone was the size of a brick, not an electrical buffer or cutter in sight all was undertaken with professional precision, manually. The best pedicure I have ever had in my life.   My only regret is not having booked a hamman for my first day, as I would gladly have gone for two.

My flight was mid afternoon so I was able to pack in the morning and arrived at the airport with both suitcase and on flight luggage full. My in-flight bag had gone empty inside my case on my outward journey. I love shopping in markets too much, not to travel with empty outward luggage.

Marvellous Morocco; I hope and look forward to returning.

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Morocco 5; The Atlas Mountains, and more serendipity.

These days with online map resources, which can be updated in seconds, the wonderful tome known as the Atlas is becoming a vintage item. My first Atlas was a gift from my mother and I used to love going through the pages, a veritable armchair explorer, with imagination on overdrive. The name the Atlas Mountains have always held a special appeal to me, so it was with delight when I received Nick Thomson’s email of Destinations travel that a 4 x 4 trip to the Atlas was available. I had no hesitation in booking and I proudly boasted on Facebook I was doing a trip to the Atlas in a ladylike manner. Things didn’t quite turn out to plan, but that is the essence of travel, seizing the serendipity when it arrives.

On return from Essaouria, I had made an arrangement with Mbarek my guide to do a trip on my last Monday, to visit the triple waterfall. On Sunday morning, I had been up bright an early, ready for my 4×4 trip, however, I  was waiting in reception with a slight sense of foreboding, all other trips had left messages at reception, there had been none reception itself hadn’t been able to get through, my temperamental phone coverage meant I had been unable to make contact to confirm.

As the clock ticked, to my surprise Mbarek came through the door of the hotel. I didn’t recognise him in jeans and jacket. He had come to give me the info about our tour the following day. He too tried to call as did the hotel staff once more, and so I used the emergency international number as my mobile had a tiny signal. Their version was they had left a message for me at reception to say that I was to be moved to Monday, as I was the only one booked for that day. It was the day of the Marrakesh marathon.

I was crestfallen as I explained the situation to Mbarek. Would it be possible to switch days I asked. “Wait”, he said and he took out his mobile, and about 10 minutes later, a bloke arrived in a Peugeot, we made three stops in different parts of the city, where Mbarek came out clutching papers from each one. Finally, we whizzed off again to a long boulevard where a black Renault was sitting.

Switching to the Renault, we set off out of Marrakesh and made our way up into the Atlas Mountains. It was a bit hair raising ;over taking on double and hair pin bends  He had suggested a different trip as time had left it too short to get to the triple waterfall. I couldn’t care, there are a lot of valleys in the Atlas. I was out of Marrakesh for the marathon, and he admitted so was he. A couple of photo stops en route and again more hawkers, I now have a bracelet made of camel bones, however when he saw I was getting fed up, he ushered a quick volley and they backed off.

We arrived in the village of Imlil, in view of Toukhal sitting at over 4.000ms, the highest peak in North Africa and of any Arabic speaking country. There was an unsuccessful and very unladylike attempt for me to try a donkey trip. I had to stand on a bridge to mount, I got my foot into the left stirrup but as I tried to get my right leg over the saddle I turned and saw the drop to the river, which was nearly dry, I froze, vertigo kicked in big time. We slowly made our way round the village, on foot up the tracks at the back of the houses. Seeing the expression on the face on a fellow traveller as she came down a steep incline, leaning over the donkey’s head, clutching the reigns with white knuckles I was glad I had chosen to trust my own feet.

With appetites stimulated by the mountain air, we went for lunch on a rooftop restaurant, looking down the valley we had driven up. Ordering the speciality of the house Mountain tagine; made with beef, potatoes, courgettes and carrots. The potatoes had absorbed the flavours and everything melted in your mouth.

Mountain tagine, vegetables laid on top of beef.

Mountain tagine, vegetables laid on top of beef.

We made our way back to the car. On the return journey we took a road through a sandalwood forest, the scent lingering in the early evening air. We stopped at the camel station where I saw two newborn baby camels, mamas not too impressed when I took photos of their calves.

Week old camel calf

Week old camel calf

Camels freed from tethers

Camels freed from tethers

I also saw the camels that had been taking out the tourists being released from their tethers and as the last foot was freed, each one in turn took off to eat; sensing them getting their freedom was lovely. Two nursing mothers waited for their calves to come and feed. I was then introduced to the nomads’ cats; I was treated with feline disdain.

The Nomads cat

The Nomads cat

Our final stop was up to the reservoir that serves Marrakesh were we watched the sunset settle over the dam. All now powered by solar energy.

Sunset over the dam

Sunset over the dam

The following morning I arose to Atlas mountain trip number two. I was collected at the appointed time. Five 4x4s were going out, there were 25 of us. About 20 minutes after pick up we all got out of the jeeps to meet the guide Ahmed who was out of the hi-de-hi tour guide school, as he got us to repeat and chant phrases in Arabic in unison. He also fancied himself as a stand up comedian, which did become wearing.

I saw more of the mountains as we crossed through three different valleys; the scenery was magnificent, stark though the deep reds of the soil with the dark green of the trees, accenting each other’s depth of colour. We stopped at a pottery and visited a Berber village for a mint tea demonstration. Lunch was back in the village of Imlil the very same as the day before, We were dropped two minutes from the restaurant a different one; the two visits couldn’t have been more different, though am glad I did both trips as they offered contrasting and complimentary insights.  I loved the serendipity that Moroccan magic was serving me.

We had Moroccan salad, which I had learned how to make, vegetable omelette also cooked in a Tagine, the eggs laid on top of the vegetables with  the heat letting it set quickly; it was delicious, chicken couscous and fruit for dessert. A final stop at an Argan oil coop but I was well stocked up, arrival back in Marrakesh was before five so I was left to myself for the evening.

I made a trip to the train station near my hotel to visit the hole in the wall for some cash. The station building was magnificent, constructed in light marble, trains departing to Casablanca and Fez, reminding in a delightful way where I was. However, the two dominant eateries were a KFC and McDonalds. That was disappointing after all the satisfying flavoursome food experiences I had had, I didn’t fancy a Mcfalafel or a Mcfondue. Sitting outside in a terrace for artisan ice cream in January was perfect.

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Morocco 4: Street Food but not Street wise.

Refreshed after a mid afternoon rest, and confident I was able to return to the same starting point for my evening street food tour as the morning, I set out to explore the Marrakesh Medina once more.

Things didn’t go well, I got into a big taxi not a small one, later a flicker of a memory returned from reading somewhere that had mentioned petite taxis for the city, large ones to explore the environs. The driver left the taxi rank taking a different route to all my other departures, weaving through side streets. We hit the avenue Mohammed 6th, it was heaving with Saturday evening traffic heading to the centre. He cursed and swore and asked if I wanted to use his services to travel out side of the city. I explained I had all my trips booked. Not long after this, he stopped the car, said too much traffic, and ordered me out saying the Café de France is that way.

I set off, got very lost in the heaving crowd. I couldn’t identify any bearings from that very morning. After a very stressful thirty minutes, asking lots of people including two policemen, I turned up late to my starting point to find my group had gone and my mobile had lost its signal, again. A young watch seller from Senegal came to my aid, called the company and several calls later my guide turned up with the group having agreed to make his way back to the starting point.

I had missed the pancake stop and the green tea. We made our way into the souk one more. Our next stop was a spice shop, containing the famous conical mounds of spices.

At the spice stall.

At the spice stall.

Some of the jars had spices in rainbow layers; the stalls were a veritable assault on the senses. I was calming down now, it is uncomfortable joining a tour late.

Leaving the spice shops, we passed several more, going past places I had seen on my two earlier trips, but I still had no sense of my bearing. The next stall was replete with pastries, crammed with various types of nuts in different shapes and combinations; my favourite was coated with honey and sesame nuts. They were drier more like shortbread in texture than baklava.

The route was determined by location than taste or flavour so after sweet we hit the olive stall that also sold chillies and preserved lemons. I love olive oil for cooking though I have never become fond of the fruit. They were in three colours, green, red, and black. It is the same fruit; the colour is determined by the moment they are picked, the longer on the tree the darker they become.

Olives and lemons at the preserved food stall.

Olives and lemons at the preserved food stall.

Then we wound our way to the bakery. Bread is very important in Moroccan culture and considered bad manners not to finish it. We saw the large flat circles being put into the ovens and the warm baked loaves come out – fresh bread aroma is one of life’s pleasures.

At the bakery.

At the bakery.

We were given a loaf each, it was wonderful but I couldn’t finish a loaf so not wanting to bin it, I held it in my hand and soon afterwards I saw a young woman in a wheelchair. She gave me the most wonderful smile when I handed it to her.

An oven was also the cooking source at the next stop – roast lamb, roasted whole on a large stick, it is lowered into pits. We made our way up a rickety staircase above the lamb ovens.

Beside the pit in the lamb shop.

Beside the pit in the lamb shop.

Chunks of lamb were piled on a dish, a fork and napkin handed to each diner. We were shown to sprinkle a prepared mixture of salt and cumin on our lamb. The balance of salt to cumin was debated as we ate.  I love lamb and this simple mix transformed the flavour of the meat. As a foodie, I delight in discovering food pairings. I recommend this one.

We thought this was our last stop but we made our way out of the souks into the Djamna al Fna, the large square, now crammed with food stalls. We squeezed onto to one of the benches at the trestle tables. We were given a bowl of the soup, that breaks the fast of Ramadan in Morocco. It was very bland; they accompany their soup with sweet food, notably dates. The American woman in the group suggested trying it with a squeeze of lemon, this was alchemy, another food pairing to add to the day’s discoveries. It went well with dates as well.

The eating was not over; our guide announced it was now time to go to supper, we gave a mutual groan of no more but were led to a large hanger. We shared chicken couscous, lamb tagine and beef tangia. Beef tangia, typical to Marrakesh, is placed in a clay jug and left at the baker’s to cook slowly all day. All the food was flavoursome, the meat melted like butter but by that time we were all too full to do it justice. Our final stop was the tea stall to drink a herbal digestive mix, steaming it burnt lips and tongue, but soothing once it had cooled.

My fellow travellers were all in riads in the medina, I had to make my way back to the taxi rank. A long walk as the square is closed in the evening, to let the food vendors set up. I found the taxi area, had to stand between the buses as they pulled up and the other traffic. Finally after five hair-raising minutes, that seemed much longer, I hailed a petite taxi. I negotiated the fare and was soon back safely in my hotel, out side the old town I was beginning to identify landmarks on my route.

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Morocco 3; Shopping, Cooking, Eating.

I discovered Moroccan food via one of my fav cookbooks – Claudia Roden’s “Mediterranean Cookery”, while in Spain. My cooks fingers and senses demanded to use the abundance of fresh quality produce in other dishes. The spices in the Moroccan recipes appealed to my taste and I had a go at my own preserved lemons and harissa. Over the years, I developed my own style of tagines, lamb, chicken and I loved the ones with fish. My first trip to Morocco had to include a food tour; I did two.

Part of my tour of Marrakesh was lunch at a traditional Moroccan restaurant. The starter was salad; a rainbow array of vegetables, each one on their own small plate, on a very large tray. Some raw, some cooked, with the range of textures from crunchy to melt in your mouth was sublime. Peppers, tomatoes, carrots, okra, cauliflower were served with flavoured oils and harissa, to tailor to your own taste; this is what I love about this spicy chilli condiment.

The main course was the classic tagine of Marrakesh; chicken with preserved lemons and olives. Dessert was fresh oranges and mandarins. I loved the generosity of the platter, lots of fruit and with the leaves still on, it was simple yet stunning. I know from my years in Spain fresh fruit from its native land is so much better, as indeed are Scottish berries. Followed by the delightful tradition of mint tea and pastries.

On my trip to Essaouria I saw a lot of agricultural produce. I admit I hadn’t expected Morocco to be so fertile, high mountains and the Sahara come to mind not rows of olive and Argan trees and fields replete with crops.  At lunch, I ordered seafood tagine, having seen the marvellous fresh catch in the market fish had to be tasted. I opted for seafood instead of white fish; as I am rather proud of my fish tagine see “Fish from North Sea to Med” on this blog. With a prawn and avocado starter , deliciously fresh, the pastel blends a natural pairing of taste and colour. I loved my tagine of mussels, prawns, and squid.

Seafood tagine

Seafood tagine

Dessert was a delightful pyramid of fresh citrus fruit.

Day three was food tour day. I arrived at Café de France, located in the Jemma al Fna just before 9 am, where I met my fellow students, Jake and Alex(andria) for the tagine cooking class. Karima our teacher arrived; we waited a while but the other people didn’t turn up so we went to buy the ingredients for our tagine at the food stalls inside the medina. The green grocer stalls were a bright tapestry of fruit and vegetables, gleaming and glinting with freshness, not a plastic tray or piece of cling film in sight. A great appetiser for keen foodies ready to cook the produce. The mint sellers, sold several varieties,

Green grocers

Green grocers

however, I wasn’t too keen on the chicken stall. The hens are kept in cages then taken out slaughtered, plucked, and cleaned, fresh without a doubt. A final stop at the spice shop and then to Karima’s home.

Located in a small riad inside the medina, our class took place in the atrium area. We began with mint tea, one of my favourite teas. My first discovery of the morning was that the basis is green tea, once infused, the tea leaves thrown out, the mint added to the green tea and cooked for five mins. It is very refreshing though I find over sweet, but it was never a problem to have it made without sugar.

Them the serious business began, the tagine. I have been making preserved lemons, basically lemons conserved in salt and whole spices, for many years and they transform Moroccan food. However, what was one of the revelations of the class was instead of adding salt to the dish you use the salted flesh to cover the chicken. The rinds are kept and added at the end. I had been discarding the flesh and cutting up the rind. I love it when I find a way to improve a beloved dish. Tagine preparation is therapeutic; the ingredients are added in layers, slowly building up the chicken, chopped onions, the spices then the olive oil. chicken tagine prep me 1

My cook’s instincts had always made me cook tagines on the hob, I had got the lemon wrong but the method right. The traditional way of cooking is to place the tagine over coals in a tagine burner. They are tripods with a bowl like area to hold the charcoal so the tagine is placed directly over the embers.   The cook then ramps up the heat by using bellows.

Using bellows

Using bellows

Tagines are primarily used to cook savoury stews and vegetable dishes. The domed or cone-shaped lid of the tagine traps steam and returns the condensed liquid to the pot, a minimal amount of water is needed to cook meats and vegetables to buttery-tenderness. This method of cooking is very practical in areas where water supplies are limited and it helps tenderise inexpensive cuts of meat. They are the heart and soul of Moroccan cuisine one pot food, used to cook, to serve and to encourage sharing as the tagine bases are placed in the centre of the diners.

When the tagines had settled on their burners, we learnt how to make Moroccan salad. Tomatoes are peeled, halved; I cut mine the wrong way and was left in doubt about it! The seeds are removed and it is diced. Roasted green peppers were put into a plastic bag to let them sweat to make skin removal easier. Skin and seeds removed; the peppers were also diced. Mixed with the tomatoes and dressed with olive oil, salt, and cumin. The Moroccans use cumin as a condiment like salt and pepper and was one of those delicious unexpected discoveries that trying food abroad brings.

The chicken tagine I had cooked I found too dry for my taste and Karima was worried I hadn’t enjoyed it, but I had leaned far too much too worry. Dessert was another traditional one, fresh oranges, peeled, sliced, and lightly dusted with cinnamon and a tiny sprig of mint, refreshing and mouth cleansing, simple and satisfying.

Orange and cinnamon

Orange and cinnamon

It was almost 1.30 pm and we all had plans for later, we made our way through the medina, to the main square were we took motorised rickshaws to move on. Jake and Alex, who I have to thank for taking such great photos to the Majorelle Gardens. I returned to the hotel to have a siesta and get ready for food trip two, the street food tour. I was only half way through day three but Moroccan magic was still working.

 

 

 

 

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A Fower’s Feelings (bilingual)

I am a bold flower without boldness.

Whose petals lose their colour, missing the ruby dew.

The leaves weak, missing the brilliant blue caress.

The sad stem needing pampering from its golden compass.

The dry roots in barren land, lacking food for the soul.

A poppy without meadow, drowning without the cheerful breeze.

Poppy stages

Poppy stages

Soy una flor fuerte sin fuerzas.

Cuyos pétalos pierden su color, que falta el rocío cárdeno.

Las hojas flojas que faltan las acaricias del añil luminoso.

El tallo triste que falta su brújula para buscar los mimos dorados.

Las raíces secas dentro de tierra sin abono por su alma.

Una amapola sin campo silvestre ahogándose sin sus aires alegres.

 

 

 

 

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Morocco 2 : Sea, Silver, and Serendipity.

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.

Argan Oil

Then there was a photo stop to see the goats in the Argan tree;

Goats in Argan Tree

Goats in 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.

Love the tilting heads

Love the tilting heads

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.

Fish Market 

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.

Sophie's double

Sophie’s double

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!

Shopping 

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,

Blue with touches of black

Blue with touches of black

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.

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