Thursday, 4 November 2010

Assessing Essaouira (pronounced Ess- ew-er-a)

The ancient walls of Essaouria

Our first night in Agadir was pretty uneventful, the downtown hotel we stayed in Hotel Kamal was
sufficient enough for one night. The real adventure started when we picked up our tiny Suzuki Alto
from Agadir Al Massira Airport he following morning.
The car was so small my luggage bag couldn't fit in the boot and had to be placed on the back seat!
I put my brave paw up to drive the tiny blue machine first, reminding my co-pilot to shout “right” at
every junction so I didn't start driving on the left and get both of us killed.
Once I had mastered a few round abouts and we had spotted a sign post for Essaouira we were
happy out. The drive out of Agadir along the coast was stunning – the Atlantic ocean to our left and
dry arid land to our right.
There are plenty of beaches only a few kilometers outside Agadir, many are renowned for their
great surf and kiteboarding, here you also have the chance to get a camel ride ont he beach and
also mix with Moroccan families as they enjoy the water edge activities. Little villages are usually
attached to the most popular beaches with one or two restaurants offering local and tourist food.
The road was quite big and of good quality but the speed limit was never higher than 80 which
made the journey quite long. The road winds up and down mountains, giving some great views over
the textured landscape. We were lucky enought to hit market day and so encountered loads of turcks
and lorries fileld with animals and farmers, met locals herding goats and some villagers driving
horse and carts to their nearest vilalge.
Dont' be surprised to find men pitching up along the road armed with bottles of Argan oil, the area
is well known for the production of this yellow fluid which is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and
numerous medicinal properties. There will be many women's Co-operatives int his area too, as it is
very popular for women to work on the production of this oil.
We bought some Argan oil off a man along the road side who was very enthusiastic about
massaging a sample into our arms!
There were policemen in every town and village holding checkpoints on this route, one kept us
chatting for ages becasue his brother studies in Dublin and he wanted to practise his English, while
another pulled us over but let us drive on once we said we were Irish.
We arrived in Essaouira before the sun set and paid some guy to take car eof our car for 24 hours
before we got lost in the walled town looking for our Riad Al Medina.
This riad is so cute, our room had a double and single bed and decorated very pretty. This was our
first experience of a riad and we were more than impressed. (The breakfast here was superb!)
The open courtyard in the middle of the riad is genius and makes the place quite cool.
We wandered around the medina before having a mediocre meal in a hotel outside the medina.
Essaouira really comes alive at night, this is when locals come out to shop with their families and
friends, you can hear people bargainng, young girls giggling with their friends and the smell of
cooked and uncooked food wafts through the air.
We encountered some great characters along the way, one of them being Mohammad Cous Cous
– he was selling jewellery. We looked in his shop window and were quickly rushed inside. He
showed us several pieces and wooed us with his knowledge of Ireland and the Gaelic language.
When we failed to make any purchases he asked my friend “how many camels for her?” while
holding on to me. My friend bargained 5, but luckily I escaped his clutches. The camel line became
our new barganing tool in the souks!
After taking a walk down by the harbour and circling the medina a few times, we settled down at a
lovely cafe just up from our riad, ordered some mint tea and watched the world walk by.
Essaouira is recommended as a day trip in every guidebook on Morocco, and here I would like to
join my name to those voices – perfect for a nice day trip, but probably time to move on after that.

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