Awoke this morning with Philip out on the terraces taking photos of the ocean as the light was hitting the rocks. Yeah I know damn awful way to start the day! His challenge was to try and capture the crashing rocks, fishermen and sea gulls in one shot (yep life is stressful!)
The way the day started was really the way it continued. I called it a ‘day at sea’ for those who have been on cruises before. It was a chance to explore the town of Essaouira as well as have a bit of a shop along the way but not have any set ‘shore excursions’ that needed doing. (I know doesn’t sound like an Elliot tour experience but just because there wasn’t any activity booked doesn’t mean the day wasn’t planned out).
After some freshly squeezed orange juice from oranges bought at the market, we headed off down to the port to see the tiny blue fishing boats that are predominant in many images of this town. These boats are wooden, open and we can tell you they bob in and out of the waves in a way that only the hardiest of fishermen could withstand. Whenever Claire sees one in the water it brings back memories of an Estonia ferry!
Down at the port, these boats come in and out throughout the day; a real 24/7 operation. As one boat comes in, little motorbikes with trailers take the small tubs of fish, already neatly sorted, off to various restaurants and hotels. Others collect the fruits of the night and then display them on tables ready for sale (we do wonder where the ice is?) Mothers with small buckets are seen heading towards the port ready to collect the items required for today’s meals and other men are stretching out the nets on shore and using large wooden needles to repair any holes. It’s a hard life for anyone involved but there also seems to have a camaraderie about it with groups of people helping out others. It’s life in Essaouira!
From the port we decided to take a walk along part of the beach which is on the other side of the ocean to the ramparts and medina. It is a long stretch of beach with fine sand, occupied by camels, horses and a few brave people keen to say they went surfing on their holiday (probably English!) The police horse patrol meander up and down the beach and there is a really nice promenade that you can walk along should you not wish to get your feet sandy. It is here that the yuppy hotels reside – the safe accommodation a little away from the medina built for those who wish to pop into the world where everyone lives but then go back to the ‘western world’ as such.
Walking along the promenade we spotted some Segway type vehicles. For $15.50 each we could hire them for an hour and not require a guide to come along with us. Sounded like a good idea at a very reasonable price. In the end the operator said we would only need half an hour as we just wanted to go along as far as the promenade would take us. Whilst they weren’t as good as the proper Segways, it was a bit of fun for a full $21 and the sunshine made it all the more enjoyable.
Walking back through the medina, we passed the shop of Mr Mohammed the leather man. Claire had her eye on his leather cap and each time we have walked past him, she makes a joke about acquiring it. This time her charm worked a treat and he removed it from his head, and gave it to her. Now we’re not sure if he gave it as a gift or gave it for a price but he said that we would fix it up Wednesday when we pick up the jackets so we’ll see (Could prove to be an expensive hat). Either way she was pretty chuffed that he would hand over his personal leather cap to her – not two million camels but I think he’s in front at this point!
By this stage, it was mid afternoon so we stopped off for a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants in town. The food here is quite cheap with most main meals around $8 -$10 and if you want to select one of the three course Moroccan options you can get that for between $11 and $14. The only thing you have to understand is that when you sit down for a meal, you could be sitting for a while. First comes out the olives and bread and this time a puréed carrot and beetroot concoction in a small glass. After the meal is mint tea time, something which we try and pay the bill before in order to not have to exchange pleasantries and try and drink some. It’s a time when you are supposed to chill and contemplate the world as it goes by. The whole process can take a couple of hours if you really want to do the Moroccan thing.
Now shopping here is also an experience. In most shops it’s about bargaining but if you go to stores where there is a co-operative which generally supports women, there are fixed prices. Whilst the medina is not huge, you can get lost, however finding your way out of the maze can occur at the turn of the next corner when you discover that that’s the vegetable part or the wooden part or the bag part or even the spice part. As it’s so much quieter than the medina of Marrakech and much more open than the medina of Fes, you don’t get that sense that you’re out of your depth when wandering around without assistance. Within the medina, you can buy all manner of things very reasonably and it’s easy to get carried away and forget about the fact that it’s all got to get back home, a concept that we grapple with in terms of each new purchase.
Whilst the sunrise is a great time in terms of light, sunset is a time for every tourist in town to grab themselves a front row position and just watch for a half an hour or so. There are any number of good positions which we discovered as Philip stayed in one position and Claire and I scampered past copious fishermen to the end of the port in an effort to see if there was a better viewing location. In the end this sunset was one to admire from any location and the number of photographs taken was representative of this fact.
So whilst the day was a little slower, it was one of admiring the place for what it is; the ocean, the medina, the people and the food. A little slice of heaven on the African coastline (and we still managed to do 20,000 steps!)