Trapped by technology in Essaouira
Trip Start May 04, 2011
124Trip End Oct 08, 2012
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Lowell was not going to let our access to a kitchen go to waste, as he puts it, cooking is like porn for him. The guys would hunt and cook for us tonight; on the menu was a seafood starter of prawns and calamari with a lamb shank for the main course
"There are many gifts that I have been blessed with. Language and names are not one of them. Our new found friends that were staying with us in the Riad were the first to encounter this deficit. Together with Greg, who I referred to as Craig, Carl, and whatever one syllable names that came to mind every time I was about to call his name; and his fiancÚ we foraged for food that evening. I believe that to understand a culture, you must eat that country’s food. This has been my habit for many years and this vacation I was determined to create a meal based upon the local vendor’s offerings.
We started out down the main street which I had discovered the previous day. It was divided into sections, the middle of which contained all the food vendors. Like most countries that I have visited, each stall sold its own wares. There were vegetables, meats, spices and the general grocers that are very much like the bodegas that you find on street corners in our country. The fun portion of this experience is that you have no idea what they are saying and have to find a way to communicate price, quantity, quality, and the desired object; using hand gestures and what little local language you can muster
The vegetables were ripe, plentiful and tasted fantastic. We cruised through this section of the market for a mere $4USD. Next up was the spice vendor. I got a chance to taste all the local spices individually and then had him create a mixture based upon what seemed closest to what I had tasted thus far. It was a combination of cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, and others that I do not remember. We added prunes, raison, olive, onions, potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers to our bags.
The butcher could not have been kinder. He pulled down a whole leg and even deboned it for us. We watched in amazement as he used a knife that was closer to a battle axe to crush the bones into smaller pieces. Of course, none of this would ever be found in Los Angeles. And you have to just look past the fact there is absolutely no regard to hygiene what so ever. Flies are abounded and you just have to get over the fact that here, clean is relative. The 10 second rule would be a god send as everything is covered with a slight haze of dust. At least in Essaouira, the smell is of the ocean and not of burnt olive pits
With food in tow, we walked back to the Riad, my backpack full and started cooking for the night’s feast. Greg and I decided that if we were going to call upon Julia Childs skills we might as well start acting like her and pulled beer after beer, followed by whiskey while we created this feast. It took about an hour to prep, but once in the oven we ventured off back down the street for more libations and a search for the elusive tea pot that Greg desired.
We searched for about 2 hours while Stacey ran on the beach, fighting off frustration based upon the technology that eluded her.
On our way we really could have used Stacey’s new found skills. The “Burberizer" was needed at this moment as Greg is much gentler when haggling with the local vendors. We did manage to get the bird once, but that was to be expected. When Greg did finally find the tea pot, there were four men at this stall. One of them was an old man that took one look at me and decided that I was a boxer. I did not understand why he keyed in on this until I started to look at my outfit for the day. I wore a sleeveless workout shirt and shorts, my tattoo exposed on my protruding biceps
The younger man brought us the traditional tea and we sat, laughed about the moment that had just passed and enjoyed each other’s company. All of this without speaking each other’s language. We communicated via gestures, sign language and writing on paper. The lesson: smile, engage, participate and see what can happen. “
We agreed to meet back at the Riad at 6:30PM, in time for a shower and clean-up for the feast. The aroma of the slow baked lamb was intoxicating and for some, mouthwatering. We probably shouldn’t have gorged as much as we did on the finger licking good seafood starter. I say that literally, peeling the shrimp and licking the sauce off our fingers was a meal on its own and required a cigarette break on the rooftop in between courses
The wine, beer and whisky were taking affect and complimented the “eat with a spoon” lamb and veggies that Lowell had mastered. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we got to know one another. Greg pegged me so well that he can be seen in the attached video, mimicking me as a cyclist at an AA meeting. Meanwhile the food obsessed guys were like two peas in a pod, orgasmic as they reminisced about the food preparation and results.
The funny thing is if Greg and Carole get funding, they are scheduled to videograph a mission up Kilimanjaro in just one month time, meanwhile a pack a day smoking Greg gets winded just climbing up the stairs to the roof. All the talk of acclimatization got me questioning how well I’ll do on the trek.
We ended the night on that note since I had to be up at 5:00AM to buy our 9:30AM bus tickets back to Marrakech. For whatever reason, we failed to buy a round trip originally and once it occurred to me, the bus station was already closed. Oddly, they open from 5:00AM-6:15AM, which is the first bus, and as it was a Friday, I worried about there being available seats.
We packed our laundered clothes and slept solid in our loft. I ventured out at 5:30AM in the pouring rain, sloshing in puddles my whole way to the bus station. It was a good thing that I took the paved road that morning. I spent a quick 20 minutes wandering the desolate streets before returning since I felt like all I had experienced of Essaouira was the Riad and the port. But that was enough to convince me to come back again.
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