Monday, December 12, 2011

Morocco: Part II - Essouira

Our Day in Essouira
December 5, 2011

Moroccan Countryside
On the fifth day of my trip to Morocco, Cecilia, Catherine, and I decided to take a bus to Essouira, a smaller town near the Atlantic Ocean.  Cecilia's host family in Madrid had recommended the trip.  So, we bought our bus tickets at the bus station in Marrakech, and hopped aboard the next morning.  During the three-hour bus ride to Essouira, we were surprised to see how empty the Moroccan countryside was.  Very few houses, factories, or other establishments.  It was like driving through the cornfields of Iowa, but without corn.

The Beach in Essouira

The first thing we did when we arrived in Essouira was stroll over to the beach - the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.  The beautifully streaked sand sparkled in the sun.  It was a welcome calm compared to the commotion   of Marrakech.  Since we were where we were, we didn't bring our bikinis to the beach.  It just wouldn't have gone well.  We removed our shoes and socks, rolled up our jeans a few inches, and waded into the water, taking care not to get our clothes wet.  We took in some sun, Catherine collected sea shells, and I took some pictures of the birds that were flying near us.
I take so many pictures of birds.  Finally got a good one!
Lunch Time!
About 45 minutes later, we explored our way over to the main square for a delicious lunch of lamb tagine with vegetables and dates, and another plate of cous-cous.  After eating, we browsed the nearby shops on the little streets, which sold hand-woven rugs, shoes, purses, toys, and most of the other things we found in the shops in the souk back in Marrakech.  The difference was that the sellers were much calmer.  No one chased us down the streets for a sale, but they were still willing to bargain.  We passed stores with spices, jewelry, old cassette tapes, books, and more.

Shopping in Essouira
Dolls in Essouira
One thing we identified as different from home was a barbie doll dressed in the coverings we saw many women in Morocco wearing.  We paused for a few minutes to think about how different life would have been if we had grown up with these outfits for our barbies instead of glittery dresses, high heels, lab coats, astronaut suits, ski attire, ballet tutus, dentist outfits, and more.  The fun part about barbie doll is that it can assume any career with the simple change of an outfit.  Typically, you buy the barbies who are wearing the attire for a career path that interests you.  The career outfits define one barbie from another.  At home, from what I can remember, we had Dentist Barbie, Art Teacher Barbie, Birthday Barbie, and probably a ballet barbie.  I don't remember too well since we had to throw most of them away after the basement flooded.  It didn't seem like the dolls we saw in this market we likely to throw on a tutu or lab coat anytime soon.  Disclaimer: We didn't look close enough to see if the dolls in the photos from the market were actually Mattel's barbies.  However, they had a striking enough resemblance that we made the connection instantly.

"Sand Dune"
After we were done shopping in the winding streets, we headed back to the beach to enjoy the sun for about 30 more minutes - the amount of time we had left until our bus would leave for Marrakech.  While we were walking around near the edge of the beach, some guy selling cookies came up to us.  He had tried to get us to buy them earlier that morning, and we had declined, so he decided to try again.  He sold six different types of cookies, and told us that two of them had marijuana in them.  Being in a super-conservative place, we were really surprised to hear that.  We were also surprised at how open he was about sharing that.  And no, we didn't buy those.  Cecilia really likes bargaining, and she's amazingly good at it, so she bargained for a few cinnamon and almond cookies for our bus ride back to Marrakech.  I don't have any photos of the guy selling cookies, but I do have photos of a mound of sand I piled together in order to try and make people think I had visited a sand dune.  What do you think?  Does it look real?  See, the funny thing is, since I travel so much now, I could probably get you to believe it was a real sand dune if I hadn't written that it wasn't - especially since most people aren't that familiar with Essouira.  But really, I'm too honest to actually do that.  Cool photo though, right?  I like the photo below from the markets too.
Spices for Sale in Essouira
The Wall Around Essouira's Center
If you're in Morocco and have an extra day, I highly recommend a bus trip to Essouira.  It's a charming town on the ocean.  The people are friendly.  Many people starred at us because we obviously weren't from there, but they were mostly just curious to hear where we came from.  We were equally curious about them, and enjoyed chatting with some of the shop owners and exploring the town.

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