So I moved to Essaouira on the Atlantic coast. On the bus there we stopped at a small village and a man wearing a turbin and carrying a rifle got on board. I was a little nervous, but he only asked that I salute Allah and kiss his feet while denouncing George Bush -- Not A Problem ----- and before you knew it we were back on the road to the coast.
It was windy, sunny, cool and MUCH more laid back in Essouira than Tangier or Marrakesh. Good, because I needed a break from EVERY MOROCCAN I MET trying to get money from me.
I stayed in the house of a family near the bus station who had turned a floor of their home into four rooms and rented them out to travelers. On the same floor were four guys from British Columbia ( a salahm alikum Derek, Trevor, Galen and Kyle) and Nick from London. We all fast became friends, and before I knew it, I was feeling comfortable in Morocco. This allowed me to let down my guard and explore this ancient land.
The whole town is painted white with blue windows and doors. There are many layers of formidable city walls with several gates. On the seaward side the ramparts were defended with well placed cannons which would have deterred any attack from that direction. The marketplace is vibrant and thriving. Even though this is still very much a tourist hot-spot, there is considerably less hassle for the traveler than in Tangier or Marrakesh.
The beach here is very long and quite deserted if you don't mind walking a few kilometers. It is here that Jimi Hendrix found the inspiration for the song, "Castles Made Of Sand." I knew that was the case but wasn't sure exactly WHERE until I saw a clump of rocks in the distance and decided to investigate. At first I thought I was seeing a natural formation but as I got closer my excitement rose upon realizing this was indeed the place: Borj El Baroud, a Portuguese fort. Local legend has it that this Lusitanian outpost was swallowed by the sand because a Soussi magician put a hex on it, as his region's trade was being ruined by the Portuguese.
Eating olives and dates and sipping mint tea by the sea
Horse drawn carriages clomp, clomp, clomping by my window at night
Camels trekking off into the Sahara
Back toward Spain:
I'm on the Marrakesh Express headed back to Tangier and I must say that my Moroccan venture has turned out to be rewarding despite it's rocky beginning. Mostly I have the wonderful Canadians and the Englishman I met in Essaouira to thank for the turnaround. That and the more friendly and real Moroccans I met there and since (Hello Awatif). It takes some patience and tough skin to adjust to the Moroccan approach. It drove me crazy in Tangier and Marrakesh and it wan't until I reached the coast at Essaouira that I was able to relax and let my guard down some. The sales tactics were still as aggressive as ever but without the sense of desperation I received in the former.