Saturday, April 12, 2008

Welcome to Morocco, Vol. IV

April 6. Sitting on a bus, somewhere between Essaouira and Casablanca.

I should take this time to describe Essaouira, before I get carsick. The little kid in front of me has already been throwing up.
If Casablanca is European and bustling, if Fes is ancient and intricate, if Marrakech is sultry and overwhelming, then Essaouira is bright and breezy. A great last stop. Ess is on the coast in the south of Morocco. Contained inside the walls of it's Medina is an old shipping port-turned-tourist-destination, decorated with a universal color scheme of bright blue, bright yellow, and bright white. This ancient city has high Kasbah walls that surround the web of wide avenues and shoppy streets. It certainly is touristy, but in a different way than Marrakech. Ess's tourists are a slower, more relaxed, older generation that is content to ramble through the kitchy markets and along the ramparts. There is also a good number of surfers who pass through the town, but they're a pretty laid-back crew too.

Before arriving, travelers we'd met had all mentioned that Ess is very windy. All of them said this. Random observation....must be true. But when we were there, the sky was bright and blue like the front doors of houses, and there wasnt even enough wind to surf.

The arts are very strong in Ess. Its known as an artist's colony and was once regarded as a hippie haven. Jimi Hendrix owned a house on the beach just south of town. Jill and Claire saw it when they went horseback riding (for real, they went Black Market Horseback Riding. Morocco has everything.) Indeed, bright colors abound, but so do hustlers. I think the vendors were almost as vicious as Mkch.
Thanks to a generous donation from Jill's parents, we got to stay in the Riad Nahkla in the center of the medina. A riad is a house with 4 floors and many rooms centered around a courtyard with a fountain or garden. There was a fabulous terrace where breakfast is served overlooking the ocean. Opulence. And, for the first time on this trip, our room even had a shower!

In Ess, we did a bit of the usual Walk, Shop, and Eat. Jill and I Walked to the port and sat on the harbor and listened to the sounds of the waves (my favorite sound in the world. I even want to get married by water), and speculated at what kinds of romantic things take place on all the Chateau d'If-type islands just off the shore. We walked to the Skala- the old rampart walls fixed with cannons and lots of seagulls. We Shopped in the medina, where the glazed tangines and silk scarves and berber jewelry and African drums and babouche shoes and leather purses and carpets and paintings of women in haijabs all began to look the same. I just cant shop so much. I felt sort of out of place in this touristy town disguised as a hidden hippie oasis. Also, we Ate. Oh, how we ate! Lets see...trying to take advantage of Moroccan food, while also putting myself on a budget: gallons of orange juice, avocado smoothies, a Portuguese omelette, a Mexican salad, fresh strawberries and dates, frothy cafe au lait (not instant nescafe, my usual breakfast in Senegal) and, la piece de la resistance: Fish! We actually went to the stalls on the harbour where you can see what they caught that day, order it, and they'll grill it tout de suite. Bass, red snapper, the best shrimp Ive ever had, crab, calamari, lobster, etc. All of that gets set down in front of you. Afterwards, we went to our terrace and drank the wine that I had bought at the creepy prohibitionesque liquor store. (Alcohol is strictly forbidden, so I had to go outside of the city walls to find it.) We savored it with wine's best complement: chocolate. It was a great final dinner.

What else did we do in Ess? We went to a nice hammam and got scrub-downs and massages with clay and argon oil. It was just us 3 this time, in the steamy cavern, with 2 friendly old ladies who chatted away in Arabic as they flopped us all around to scrub all our nooks and crannies clean. It was very refreshing and invigorating and only cost us $2 each.

I spent some good time alone. I took a walk to the beach as Jill and Claire took the horse ride to have tea with the ghost of Jimi Hendrix. I had to escape the medina for the sounds of the waves. The sunset was incredible- impossible to capture on a camera, as usual. I definetly need to live by big water in my life. When the water makes the sand like a mirror, the sunset is reflected from the sky and you cant tell where the sky ends and the Earth begins- one giant, endless horizon.

April 6. Same bus. Hours later. Kid still throwing up.

Digression...I'm sitting on this bus in the middle of the countryside in Maroc and I'm thinking about Squash Monster. I'm thinking about the games my dad used to play with us as kids, when life was relatively straightforward and uncomplicated. I'm thinking about my parents and the blessing of my family. I owe my wanderlust to them.

They tried their best to raise Beth and Steve and I to be cosmopolitan, open-minded, curious, caring, with a sense of Eternal Perspective. They have depensée everything so that I could grow up with wide eyes and listening ears. They have taught me that there are moments to be in transit and moments to settle...the hard part is finding contentment in both. However, as my mom once told me, wherever you place your foot, there is purpose.

We're driving past migrant workers in the vast mint fields. My parents have worked as hard to create the best life for us. I take this so much for granted. I guess being away this year makes me nostalgic. Dont it always seem to go...

I hope that if I ever have kids (oh gosh...) that I can raise them as strongly- with wide eyes and listening ears and curiosity and bravery and joy and wisdom- yet without all the neuroses that are passed down through generations. I owe my parents an irrepayable debt. I guess I'll just pay it forward. I owe this trip, and many others, to many many people. It takes a village to raise someone wild at heart.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bet you will never have seafood quite like that ever again.