When we arrived in Essaouira, we had been traveling for two months in Morocco. We had seen seas, mountains, deserts, cities and villages. We had experienced good and bad times, cold and heat, stress and boredom. We had seen a lot and needed a rest and a much slower pace of travel. In other words, we were a little exhausted from Morocco and the intensity we were doing our trip, but still, we had a good deal of hope for Essaouira. During those two months, some places in Morocco had enchanted us and others had disappointed us. Now it was Essaouira’s turn and we needed to believe that it would not fail us. Thus, after waiting for a long time and traveling a long way, one day we arrived in Essaouira and from that moment on, everything made sense.
Before reading further, a clarification: what is this post?
This is a story of our experiences and is 100% subjective. If what you are looking for is practical and useful information for traveling in Morocco, with statistics and specific data, you can find all that and much more in this post Morocco: practical guide for travelers (by clicking here). Clarified this, let’s continue with the story…
Essaouira was like that hug of reconciliation after a fight. It was to be in a place that I loved completely, a feeling that I did not feel many times in Morocco. It was the sensation of just having arrived and feeling like I should have arrived days, weeks, years before, to enjoy it a little more.
Essaouira was that place where I was happy about having what I had often wanted to have on previous trips and didn’t have: more time to travel and open plans. Thanks to this possibility, in a blink of an eye, the original two weeks that corresponded to Essaouira became three, which in turn made it the place where we stayed in Morocco for the longest time.
Essaouira was the place that, due to its geographical position on the map and its temporary position within our traveling calendar, marked the beginning of the last stage of the trip through Morocco, a cycle closure, with all the reflections and feelings that it implies. It marked the reunion with the sea, with the salty wind, with the seagulls, with the port. Essaouira was one of the few places in Morocco that I left thinking “here I could come back sometime…”
It cannot be said that Essaouira is not very touristy, it certainly is, but somehow inexplicable, it is also exquisitely well balanced with the local culture that never ceases to be present (which I observed during our entire trip through Morocco). And in addition to foreign visitors who come for a few days and continue on their way, Essaouira knew how to welcome many who came on a trip and loved her so much that they stayed to live between their walls and seagulls. Therefore, in Essaouira more than anywhere else in Morocco, we have been, can be found a huge amount of varying food offer and international atmosphere.
Perhaps at another time in my life I would have said that I do not like when this happens, but after two months of traveling in an extremely authentic way through Morocco, of eating so much typical food (which is delicious but like everything in excess, tires), and having no chance of eat a good ice cream, a small contact with the world of known and missed flavors, is much appreciated. In Essaouira I learned that this coexistence of cultures was possible and I would argue more than ever that: to travel is an infinite learning process and a very good school to train tolerance.
And for dessert Italian gelatto … if we do it, we do it well!
Essaouira, where we did the best volunteer work of our entire trip
And thanks to Essaouira being so generous to those who loved it and choose to live there, we did the volunteer work that we liked the most, because one of all those expats is Tessa, an Italian woman who after having traveled all over the world, and having had the possibility to choose any place, chose Essaouira to stay still, along with her dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, camels, chickens, rabbits, sheep and turtles, which we took care of while we were in Essaouira. (If you want to know more about how we do to travel without paying accommodation, you can read it by clicking here)
It is curious to think that in “my previous life”, which means, “when I did not live traveling”, I had never asked myself what a camel ate or how it lived, it seemed so far from my reality and impossible to know. As I always say, I am a city person, something that does not bother me, but quite the opposite, the city inspires me and is my habitat. Even so, having learned to take care of all kinds of animals in a farm (even a camel!) is something as unimaginable as it is priceless to me. It is as if in every point of the journey, in which we have lived the most diverse experiences, was a small play, where we always play a new role. Thus, we travel and play to imagine how it would be to live like in this or in that way, in this case, how would life be if living on a farm in Essaouira, Morocco and having twenty-four animals of the most diverse types?
Thank you Tessa for your immense and admirable hospitality and for allowing us to live this experience that we enjoyed so much. Thank you for receiving us in your beautiful house, so full of good energy and for making us feel at home, a feeling that after many months traveling is infinitely appreciated.
In Essaouira, some things happened to us that we would never have thought could happen to us in Morocco. For example:
Unusual event 1
Throughout our trip through Morocco, before arriving in Essaouira, we had to haggle absolutely everything if we did not want to pay crazy prices. In Morocco, as in many other places, bargaining is the national custom and is used for everything, even for the price of a taxi ride, one of the scenarios where I least like to haggle.
Ah, but in Essaouira… in Essaouira it can happen that you stop a taxi with all your arsenal ready for a new haggling battle, ask the price of the trip you want to do and the taxi driver answers in perfect English worthy of admiration: “If you don’t have enough money, the trip is free … yes, as you heard, free! For the first time in your life! ”
Unusual Event 2
In one of our visits to the souk (traditional Arab market where you can buy almost anything and it is mostly attended by local people), we wanted to buy olives. In Morocco the olives are very tasty, they are eaten at all times and they are incredibly cheap!
The seller was a tender old man, who used typical Moroccan clothing and spoke no language that we could understand. So, like so many other times on this trip, communication with signs had to be enough. But the language barrier that separated us fell completely when he one by one made us try all the different varieties of olives he had for sale, at least ten, of the most diverse colors and shapes.
We chose the ones we wanted and, again with signs, we told him more or less the amount we wanted (through signs, there are no exact amounts). Once we closed the olive transaction, he offered us something that I love but we had not planned to buy: the typical lemons macerated in salt and water, which over time become so soft that even the peel is eaten in many dishes of the Moroccan cuisine, such as lemon chicken tagine, which is a delight!
Improvising more signs we said no, that we did not need it, but he did not care and before we finished with our communication attempt he had already put it in the bag… as a gift!
Unusual Event 3
Tessa’s house where we stayed for free in Essaouira, in exchange for our volunteer work, was on the outskirts of the city, about 8 km away from the medina.
To get to town, the best option was to hitchhike, it is something very common in Morocco, the locals use it as a common means of transport (there are also taxis, but they are costly or a local bus, which passes very seldomly and is generally collapsed by the amount of people).
One of the keys to success in hitchhiking is choosing well the spot. That day, we went against all the implicit rules of hitchhiking and placed ourselves in front of a police control (it had shadow).
Perhaps in another country, the police would have told us that we could not hitchhike (it is known that the police are not very fond of this custom, especially with tourists), but in Essaouira, the police officer on duty approached us and told us that it was convenient to hitchhike from a little further on, because nobody was going to stop where he and all the police control infrastructure was.
It seems that the good cop brought us luck, because in less than a minute we were hopping into a car, and the driver even deviated from his path to take us as close as possible to home.
Thanks Essaouira for letting us enjoy you so much! There will never be too many times to walk through the alleys of your medina, to look at your seagulls, to tour your harbor, to feel your salty wind on our faces. We had three weeks to enjoy you and it was not enough, as it happens to be with those places that mark us forever. Therefore, as I said above, we left thinking “here I could come back sometime”…
PostScript 1: If you want to help me to continue with this project, don’t forget to share!
If you have any questions, queries or suggestions, you can leave it in the comments below. And if you think someone can serve or interest this information, I thank you very much for sharing it!
PostScript 2: how do we continue?
If you want to read the next chapter of this adventure and what happened after Ouarzazate, you can click on the photo below to read the next post…