I packed completely wrong for the beach in Essaouira. I couldn't wrap my head around beach/swimwear and dressing appropriately for a predominantly Muslim country, where women sometimes don't even wear short sleeves. I settled on this: a black running skort with little pleats in the back, a long-sleeve black UPF 50 zip-neck tee, a black visor and flip flops. I felt I'd be covered adequately but could still splash in the water or even swim, if I felt like it. The problem was, in April, the Atlantic waters were really too cold for swimming, so yoga leggings, a long top and a scarf would have sufficed on any given day. I'm of the mind though that if I've packed something, I might as well wear it. One warm-ish afternoon, I set off for a beach stroll and wore my modest beach outfit.
I can not even tell you how popular I was that afternoon. Wow. You may have heard stories of men in Morocco making assumptions about, or harassing, American female travelers. I didn't experience that while I was there. What I did experience was a lot of flattering attention. The men really, really (really) liked my skort. While they may have been trying to sell my friend and me a camel- or horse-back ride too, they all wanted to talk to us. A shake of the head and a a No Thank You was not a deterrent. A big smile, a little conversation and then a No Thank You worked better, but didn't prevent several of the men from approaching us again. And maybe even again after that. One of the men even went so far as to invite me to ride with him, "for free." Of course, the offer was to ride with him, on his same horse, all smushed together in one little saddle. And he made sure to note that he was speaking to me, the "one in the black," not to my beautiful and much thinner yoga friend. He invited me to dinner too. With his too-skinny wife. That whole story still makes me giggle. Apparently Moroccan men love round women.
We walked all the way to "the rocks," which is where you see the camels-for-hire resting, in the image above. There was knee deep water in front of this landmark which I cautiously waded through, because I wanted pictures of the mussels. Toni, my yoga buddy, relaxed on the beach while I splashed around.
The beach at Essaouira is famous for kite surfing. It's almost always terrifically windy and the main part of the beach is long, smooth and flat. The water is very shallow for a long way, which is another good thing if you want to learn to kite surf. A lot of beach-goers just strolled around like we did. Others picnicked, read and people-watched. A few took advantage of the opportunities to ride.
It was a really friendly public space, and while there were definitely tourists, it was also filled with locals. On Friday evening , as the tide went out, the footballers marked out playing fields in the sand. In the image below, you can see the fishing port off to the right, a goal net on the beach and the start of a precisely measured field. It may be on the beach but football is a very serious business in Morocco.