26 Sept 2014

Essaouira and its blue doors

3 hour drive from Marrakech (or more depending on the traffic), we arrived at Essaouira, marveled at the gorgeous view of the UNESCO protected beach town. 

There aren't much to do here. The medina (old town) is small, there's a habour near by. You can walk the town and the habour all within an hour, or two, if you stop at almost every store like me. But I loved it. There were so much to see, touch, smell. Every turn offered something new and exciting.

After the first walk, we decided to go back to the riad for an early dinner instead of having fresh fish by the harbour (which everyone recommened - but I have to admit i'm not a fan of fishy smell, end of day, habour, it's been sunny, you get the picture). I'm so glad we did. Maison du Sud served the best chicken tagine with lime and olives I've ever had in my entire life. Even after devouring multiple starters, we  managed to clean the tagine pots spotless. It was had to not to make weird noises while eating, partly from foodgasm, partly from us overfed ourselves and were slowly slipping into food coma.

So, one word of advice: when you're in Morroco, always, always have at least 1 meal at the riad you're staying at (especially small ones). Oh, and go for a traditional dish. Chances are, they make the best food you might taste for the entire trip

After dinner, we had to lie in bed for half an hour, doing nothing but wait for our now 3 month pregnant bellies to calm down (food coma, remember?). Then we went for a night walk.

The local market starts after dinner when night fall. You would find yourself shoulder to shoulder with the locals, zig zag through the butcher stalls with fresh meat hanging from metal hooks, the vegetable stalls with dozens of local vegs and oceans of fresh mint (the smell was heavenly!), the random clothing stores with kids and young men shouting the bargain price. Everyone would be round and about doing their own business, and you can comfortably enjoy being an invisible observer.

The main square by the sea was filled with kids running around playing tag or football, old people sitting around chatting, mamas watching their toddlers, and young lads hurrying somewhere in small groups. Everyone was so happy and relax. It was magical, especially when the square was bathing in the last light of the day.

And although that was an excellent experience, the magic time of Essaouira for me was realy late at night when all the stalls were closing, and early in the morning when nothing was opened yet. 

We spent the night on the roof top of the riad, watching the streets below going dim and vacant. The late prayer call added a touch of sanctity, and traditional Moroccan music coming from the live band in the near by coffee house just made everything perfect. 

We woke up really early for a stroll along the beach and the medina, again. We pretty much walked the exact same route we did the day before, but it was somehow a very different walk. Essaouira in the morning was draped in this see-through, fresh, and innocent air with a hint of sadness. It somehow reminded me of Hanoi in the late 80s. 

The medina consisted of rows of peeled white walls and faded or newly painted blue doors. 

Even when the doors weren't blue, something else or someone would be wearing the colour. 

We managed to find little alleys that we hadn't walked past the day before, and some more faded blue gates. 

We left when the sun was blazing hot at noon time. The medina started to wake up, gaining its hustle and bustle energy, its amazing mixture smell of fish at one corner and mint tea at another, its loud shout here and silent smile there, its sweet rose oil and spicy kicks of cinamon, all would last until the last prayer call at night, before slowly leaving like a long loved and frequent guest, giving back the town its serenity and sadness. 

I wouldn't spend more than 1 night in Essaouira, but I definitely recommend it. It's a weird, wonderful and sincere introduction to an amazing country. 

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