Friday, May 6, 2011

Day 182: Surviving Morocco (Essaouira)

Essaouira is a small Moroccan port town with a disproportionate energy to its size. As with many touristic places in Morocco, the main street is a cornucopia of life. From the touristy stores to the old man selling snails, there is much to be discovered here, but Essaouira has a true jewel. Throughout my trip I've discovered a love for water. Whether built along the coast or has a river running through it, water refreshes a city. If you follow Essaouira's main street until you meet the ocean, you will discover the best Essaouira has to offer, its port.

Welcome to Essaouira.

Get ready for a full sensory experience. As you enter the port through the stone archway your senses vie for your attention. Your eyes see a hundreds of boats covering every size. From the jungle gym created by large trolling vessels to fleets of Essaouira's trademark bright blue dingeys. You hear people shouting at one another in Arabic, deals being made, arguments being settled. The high pitched whine of a grinder as a ship builder continues his work. You smell not only the fish, but the salt from the ocean mingling with the occasional waft of cigarette smoke. You feel your camera in your hands and prepare for a pathetic attempt at capturing the experience.

See kids, typography can be fun.
Love this photo.
Complete insanity.
Fun to take photos of but I wouldn't want to work on one.
So many textures, colors, and shapes.
The port can be exhausting, especially for Barcelona fans.
This photo is so Bauhaus.
I'd like to sell my photo to stock photo websites.
Under construction...
...Under deconstruction.
I call it... Two Seagulls
This was the smallest kitten I've ever seen.
So many bright blue boats.
Moroccans sleep anywhere they can.
Gives a great overall sense of the port.

Although the port is small, I stayed there for a number of hours, absorbing. Everywhere I looked I saw something new and fascinating. For only 10 durham you can gain entrance into a tower and guard wall that overlook the port and provide an excellent view of Essaouira. Exploring the port was my favorite part of Essaouira but I also went for a walk along the beach.

This tower was built to defend the port.

The seagulls really liked this rock.
Lazily soaring on the wind.
At your feet, Private! Prime the cannons!

Essaouira's beach nice, with shallow water. Kite surfing is popular there because of the high winds and the beach looked ideal for learning. I wasn't going to rent equipment but I was curious to compare Morocco's kite surfing equipment prices with Tarifa's. In Tarifa I paid €60 for three hours of equipment rental. In Essaouira I found a guy who rents equipment for 250 durham (€25) the entire day. Considering the ferry and overnight train are about €70 for both, in order to save any money you would have to stay in Essaouira for about a week. Good to know.

Way cheaper but Tarifa is more beautiful.

Later at night I bumped into a young dude who wanted to show me around the day before. He recognized me and we started chatting. I had come out from the hotel to get a small snack but he talked me into getting dinner. After spending the day at the port I wanted to sample its fishy fruits. We went to a nearby market and I selected the fish that I wanted, along with some shrimp (€3) then we took it to a public oven where they cook the fish (€1.30) and I also had a salad and bread. Eating the fish was an experience because they simply cut it in half so I tried to navigate through the bones and scales. Fortunately the meat was delicious and I enjoyed the company of my new friend. It definitely felt like an authentic Moroccan fish-eating experience.

Essaouira's main street.
Choosing my dinner at the fish market.
They cut it in half.
Grilled to perfection.

From weaving through its tiny streets to experiencing the entropy of the port, I had a wonderful time exploring Essaouira. I spent one full day there with two nights in a cheap hotel. If you're prepared for a long day it would be possible to see the city and return to Marrakech, but I was happy I stayed overnight. I had a CouchSurfing host but I couldn't contact him on the phone and he didn't answer any of my messages. Despite that, I had an excellent time enjoying this small port city. From the sights to smells, tastes to textures, Essaouira is definitely worth a visit.


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