January 09, 2008

Essaouira

After the chaos and frustration of the mountains we decide to do things differently.

Destination: the Atlantic coast. Essaouira to be exact; a previous '70s hippie-hideout and currently a surfers' paradise. Most of all, I need some r&r. Sun, good food, views across the ocean - it all sounds ideal right now. And we take control: we've had enough of depending on an unreliable public transport system and we leave Marrakesh's insane traffic behind in our very own car. Well, for the next 48 hours it is, anyway.

We have no idea what awaits us down the road so I'm pretty excited to be heading to a new place. The road there is straight, long and narrow and we're driving right into the setting sun. Unexpectedly, the landscape is one of an almost eerie desolation and emptiness. Rocks, an occasional tree and then nothing. Behind us there is only a far-off mountainridge. The drive back during the day promises to be pretty spectacular.

The town itself is a quaint Arabic version of Greek island towns. Strangely familiar - but not quite - to S., full of photo opportunities for me.

The food here stands out. The first night, after a late arrival, we stumble upon a true 'hole-in-the-wall': a restaurant called Chez les freres, which seats exactly six guests. A chubby, happy Moroccan entertains us while we enjoy the house specialties. The fish tajine that evening remains one of the best of the whole week.

The next day: lunch is a mix of grilled fish. Sitting on the water front, in the sun, and having plate after plate of the freshest fish, shrimps, calamari etc brought out. Bliss. Dinner is again at an accidental discovery. Harira, couscous and bread in a setting that would be a hit in any art-conscious European city. The walls are completely covered by posters of works by local painters, with laidback jazz playing in the background.

Essaouira itself is a maze of souvenir shops where we perfect our negotiating skills. To escape the crowded streets we drive south. Sidi Kaouki is supposedly an increasingly popular spot with waves for the adventurous and experienced surfer. It turns out to be an almost deserted beach with beautiful warm weather and all of three cafes, a guesthouse and a campsite. I can't think of a better place for a weekend hide-away.

The anticipated drive back to Marrakesh starts out with disappointment. The empty steppe we had expected to admire is blanketed is a thick layer of fog. The eerieness remains but not quite in the way we were expecting. When the blue sky returns I'm surprised to see that - although I can't imagine anything growing out there - there is an occasional house and regular herds of sheep and goats. And donkey traffic is thriving - but I wonder where on earth these men and their animals are coming from and where they are headed to.

2 comments:

fenneke said...

lovely stories, it all sounds fabulous! I bet you'll have wonderful pics as well.
We're planning our holiday at the moment, London and a smaller town (any suggestions?). UK is not quite Morocco, but i'm looking forward to it nevertheless :)

Julia said...

Sounds amazing...can't wait to go there!