The hardest part about Essaouira is spelling it. I double- and triple-check every time. It'a blast to say it though. "Ess-uh-weer-uh." If you want a sweeter, softer version of Morocco, after visiting Marrakech, travel to the medieval walled city of Essaouira. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has a fabulous medina and shopping. Plus, it's on the Atlantic Ocean, so it's often cool and lovely, although it is also often very, very windy. Weather-wise, it's a good trade off from the relentless, sweaty heat of Marrakech.
In addition to a long, smooth, flat expanse of beach, complete with kite surfers, sandy soccer fields, horses, camels, quads and the requisite beach bars, there's an active fishing port. I thought we'd go ahead and visit the fishing port today. Maybe we'll go to the beach tomorrow. If you've looked into traveling to Morocco before, you've seen images of the fishing port at Essaouira. The boats are wood. And they are painted blue. With a few charming accents of red.
The times I spent at the fishing port may have been some of my favorite in Morocco. I was still hurting from my horseback-riding fall so I was moving slowly, and very deliberately. I took my time and enjoyed the massive flock of seagulls swooping around my head. (If I'd gotten pooped on, I probably wouldn't think back on the seagulls so romantically.) I captured a whole series of images of a momma cat jumping from the dock into a boat, grabbing a newborn kitten (in her mouth, you know how they do it) and jumping back across the water (with the kitten in her mouth), to the dock, and then stashing her kitten in another hiding spot. More on that, and the rest of the Moroccan cats, in another post.
The point here is, I was still and slow and quiet, and I experienced the fishing port in a meditative way. I saw other tourists get off busses and vans, run through the port in 15 minutes and then move into the medina, their iPhones held high in front of them the entire time. I'm not at all sure they experienced Essaouira fully.
As I walked through the rows of men and women selling their catch, I asked if I could take pictures of the fish and many said Yes. A few of the women made the gesture with their fingers that I could as long as I paid them but I didn't, and moved on. Some people said Yes to the fish, but No to pictures of them. I speak a bit of French but no Arabic or Berber, the other most common languages in Morocco, so communicating wasn't easy. One fisherman wanted to see the images I took, and reached for my camera but I misunderstood. It took a minute and then the lightbulb went off and I showed him the images of the fish, which he liked very much.
At the end of my slow tour of the port, I bought a freshly-squeezed glass of citrus juice - orange and grapefruit and lime- and drank it while I sat on the seawall and watched the fishermen work. Juice is about 10 dirhams ($1 USD) at the port. It's served in a tall glass that is actually glass. I didn't see any running water at the juice stall, and I'm not sure how clean those glasses were but it was a delicious glass of juice.