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Trip Report Morocco, Day Trip To Essaouria

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Spending a weekend in Marrakech gives me the opportunity for a kind of family road trip to Morocco's Atlantic Coast. "Mom, mom, Amy is looking at me."

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    Driving To Essaouria & Goats In Trees

    I am up early as I will be off for a day trip to Essaouria which is located on Morocco's Atlantic Ocean coast. It is about a three hour bus ride and we are scheduled to leave Marrakech around 8 am.

    As I enter Djemma Al Fna, the sounds from the previous day and night have vanished. I pass an occasional stray cat or two as a few taxis whiz down alleys they won't be able to drive later in the day. For all practical purposes the square is empty and seems almost foreign to me.

    Walking towards the tour bus location, I am shown the cafe where there was an unfortunate bombing in April that took 16 innocent lives, mostly tourists, and injured many more. As renovations are in progress, the signs of this tragedy that are being kept in the public eye is slowly being erased.

    After what seems like a lengthy wait for others to show up, we are finally on our way in a mini-van for what appears to be a family road trip. Dad puts on the tunes and we off rocking down the road.

    A few turns here and there along with dad's music selection and I am feeling dizzy. Soon, miles and miles of scenery pass behind my eyelids. I wake up as we pass small herds of sheep and goats by the highway. There are also donkeys laden with goods and riders.

    “Mom, mom, Amy is looking at me”.... Uuuuh, she's too busy jamming to Dad's music that she just ignores me. So unfair!

    We pass through small towns with stores lined on both sides of the now narrow highway. I can see lots of melons and fruits on the ground. I wish we would stop so I can buy some or just have a taste. However, I know Dad, he'll will drive at least twenty hours without stopping. I wonder how come he never has to pee.

    Our mini-van finally comes to a crawling California stop. Dad has to slow down for a radar check point. We have seen a few of these on our way to Essaouria. Approaching what appears to be an orchid we finally come to full stop. I am excited but I am not sure I can believe my eyes. There are goats standing in a tree. Not just two or three but lots of them.

    Getting out of the van, I pinch Amy on the bottom for looking at me earlier then I race over to a man holding a baby goat. He places the goat in my arms which is so cool. I still can't believe I am looking at goats standing in a tree.

    Our next stop is at a tourist Argan Oil shop and factory. Here, we get a brief informative tour. We learn about the various products and uses that come from the argan seed. The production process is interesting as it mostly involves women using a grinding stone to crush the seeds.

    One benefit of the seed is in the treatment of diabetes. I taste a sampling of the roasted seeds which has a very bitter starchy taste. I immediately feel the need for lots of sugar and water. The earlier sampling of the oil with warm bread and mint tea was much better.

    Our finally stop before Essaouria gives us an elevated panoramic view of the city. I am excited to get there.


    Video:
    http://youtu.be/sISFqBFL6fo

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    Strolling Essaouira

    Arriving in Essaouria, I immediately take a liking to the area. Clear blue skies and fresh Atlantic Ocean breezes blanket this city along Morocco’s western shoreline. A brief walk from where our tour bus drops us off and we enter a bustling hassle free outdoor market area.

    I imagine you can find anything you might need here. Colorful leather slippers for men can be found from one vendor, there's a butcher shop even a fast talking super glue salesman.

    Can you get chicken any fresher than a live one? I just which they knew not to stick their necks out on a limb.

    I am drawn to the variety of fresh fruits and give a cactus fruit a try. I am impressed when the vendor reaches below his cart full of fruit and retrieves his private reserves. Using his skills he prepares the fruit for me and serves it like a gracious host. A papaya texture with edible seeds that's moist and sweet. All for less than ten cents, wow!

    Next, I am walking a narrow alley that opens into a small square that connects to another narrow alley. Both are lined with buildings that have bright blue shutters a left over reminder of France's presence here.

    Another street with a mixture of shops. This time two catch my attention, well ok, more like three. First, a music shop where I purchase a CD with a nice collection of African music. Then I succumb to my sweet tooth not once but twice.

    How can one resist a coconut layered cake or pastries loaded with pistachios, almonds or chocolates? It takes nerves of steel and stamina which I severely lack when it comes to sweets. However, I do get some encouragement from a local Superkid!

    Video:
    http://youtu.be/yXIwpEIVdhE

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    Seaside Essaouira

    Walking along the shoreline, I am given another perspective of this charming coastal town. Vendors carry trays of local pastries for sale while a group of kids gather near the water to fish. As I head towards an old fort in the distance, I make a brief stop at stands filled with the fresh catches of the day.

    Here I solve the mystery of the flavorful fish I had for dinner the previous night in Marrakesh. My guess confirmed. It was eel.

    Just before entering the old fort colorful blue fishing boats scattered around add a nice touch to the coastal landscape.

    A $10 dirham entrance fee and I get an elevated view of the city along with the chance to share a part of it's history. Off shore is an island once used as a prison and below me is a very active fishing port and market area. The wind is howling up here and steals my Chicago Cubs baseball cap. I hope some Moroccan will recover it from the sea below and become a Cubs fan.

    From the fort, we make our way to the beach which has a wide firm sandy area. Here you can do windsurfing, kite sailing or even take a camel ride. I find it ironic that the water is so cold beneath my feet. However, it does stop too many from enjoying being here. Especially, the kids.


    Video:
    http://youtu.be/7eOSDa3xc-s

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