Peaceful Paradise

Trip Start Sep 12, 2005
Trip End Dec 12, 2005

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Thursday, December 8, 2005

The port city of Essaouira was our last stop on the tour. We've had quite a bit of free time in Marrakech as well as here for shopping and relaxing. I've been glad as its provided me with the opportunity to catch up on my travelogue!

Our only stop on the way to Essaouira was to see goat in trees. (!) Goats climb the thorny argun trees and stand precariously on the limbs to eat the fruit. Once the goats digest the fleshly covering of the argun fruit, the almond-like nut is passed through their systems and collected to produce a peanutly-flavoured oil. Its all rather strange. Even though the weather has been less than desirable (i.e., cold), Sandra says we were lucky. It is only the second time in eight tours that she has seen both the Barbary Apes and the goats in the trees.

Essaouira (population 45,000) is one of the most popular towns along the Atlantic coast; the Rolling Stones, Cat Stevens and Jimi Hendrix came here on a regular basis. It is believed that Hendrix wrote "Castle in the Sand" about Essaouira. The strong coastal wind known locally as the "alizee" blows nearly all year round, making this spot on the wild Atlantic an idyllic destination for wind surfers and kite surfers. As each day that we were there progressed, the wind would pick up in intensity, blowing around tourists, as well as and seagulls who hover above the fishing boats looking for food. We can also hear the continuous screeching of gulls from our hotel room.

Our hotel was inside the medina walls where no vehicles are allowed and thus we had to unload the vans and have porters with handcarts bring our luggage into the hotel, a riad with rooms that face on to an open courtyard.

Because of the relatively mild climate and a never-ending supply of fish guts, cats and dogs abound here; the town is just crawling with cats roaming the streets, frequenting cafes looking for a bite and making themselves at home in the various hotels. Since our hotel was accessible because of its style, you could certainly smell eau de cat, particularly in the lobby. Jon had to jump out of his chair on the terrace when a tomcat decided to spray his chair during breakfast. They certainly need a spay/neutering program here. I suggested to Arlene that she start one.

The minaret for the local mosque is right outside our bedroom window (as it also was in Marrakech and Casablanca), so it's pretty hard to miss the call at 5:30 am! The call to prayer in Morocco is not nearly as easy on the ears as in the Middle East. In Syria, Jordan and Turkey it was generally a very melodic song and lovely to listen to; here is it more of a drone. In Casablanca it sounded like the hum of race cars going around a track. (There are also not as many minarets here as in the Middle East and they are a different shape - square rather than round.)

In both Marrakech and Essaouira, Martin was approached to buy drugs. Hashish production here brings in 4 billion dollar annually, so it isn't likely to be halted anytime soon.

We explored the waterfront and took a walk along the beach. It's too cool this time of year for swimmers, but there were a few kite surfers out. At the far end, we came across sand crabs and little turtles amongst the twigs and ocean vegetation washed up by the tide. Hopeful camel owners pestered us to take a camel ride to Jimi Hendrix's house.

It's hard to believe that it's almost Christmas as we've seen no sign of it in the Muslim countries we've been to. (No doubt everyone at home has been inundated with Christmas hype for a good couple of months now.) I did see some plastic Santa toys in the market today; Martin says he saw similar one in the souq in Marrakech.

Our last evening in Essaouira is the last time our group will be all together as tomorrow most of us head back to Casablanca to catch flights, but some people have chosen to go back to Marrakech instead. We celebrated the conclusion of a very enjoyable tour by going out to a seafood restaurant.
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