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Essaouria, Morocco

What an amazing place is this Essaouria – encompassed by endless desert. When we got ashore we found ourselves immersed in and surrounded by old Moorish castles with towers and stone-works, crowded wharves, minarets, full on eye-slit only covered ladies (others in tight jeans and sweaters), most men kitted out in camels-wool hooded robes of every shade and stripe (jalabas), winding ally ways, hidden markets, spice smells (fish smells too), beautiful weathered stone arches of this ancient walled city, lines of bronze cannons at the fortress walls from the 1600s overlooking the smashing breakers and the approach to the bay, excellent coffee, great food eaten with hands in a circle on the floor, gorgeous rugs everywhere, leather goods, big scary daggers, knives and swords, antique chests covered in leather and brass, fine fabrics, pottery, intricate jewellery, fun haggling, begging kids laying on the soulful eyes (while wearing bright shiny running shoes). Berbers, Twareg and Nomads all over the place. Donkey carts hauling everything from fire-wood to sheep to propane tanks. Jimi Hendrix spent some time here and wrote a song about castles in the sand. His house is crumbling nearby. Not a word of politics, although when prompted they are quite pleased about Obama (as is everybody else in the known universe we run into). Long streets of markets, some touristy, most local.

Folks here are universally very friendly, always inviting you in for sweet mint tea while sitting in their shop or just next to an old stone wall, and even for full meals. If you just happen to mention that you are hungry the next thing you know is that you are invited into the back room of some shop and Fatima is sorting you out with a communal bowl of couscous. Always with the feasting – this time was coming up on a big Islamic fest so one day you see sheep tied up being carted about with much knife sharpening going on in the many road-side knife sharpening stalls (they also sharpen hatchets and axes) and then soon no more sheep and the knife sharpening is over. Tanjine cooking and couscous dishes all the time. Interesting combinations of prunes with meat and such. Some of the gang found camels to ride. Camels are nasty beasts. Many of the folks we met were headed off into the desert soon to see family and hold feasts for a week or two. We were invited to come along join our new acquaintances into the dunes and I think quite sincerely. Next time when we happen to be in Morocco – into the desert…

carpets everywhere
howitzer in Essaouirs
the main drag, Essaouira

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