Tom is working in Morocco and he picked me up at the airport in Casablanca and together we drove south to Essaouira where he is working.
Essaouira is a fishing port built in the 18th century. The medina is the ancient walled city with a tangled maze of narrow alleys free of cars but filled with locals on rusted bikes, children playing, men pulling loaded carts and women huddled in groups sharing the gossip of the day. White washed walls and blue doors appear to be struggling against the tide of time. Tiny dark closet size shops sell woven carpets, delicate tin glazed pottery, coloured slippers, bold paintings, leather goods, intricately inlaid wooden boxes, hand knitted hats and scarves, jewelry and African masks all spilling out into streets. Battle scarred cats wandered everywhere or lazed in amongst the goods displayed.
In the souk the open air market there was a buzz activities. Vendor delicately displayed their wares. Spices and herbs heaped in piles, strawberries and dates beautifully arranged, olives piled high, fruit and vegetables artistically displayed.
An elderly woman with a plastic bag in her hand shouted at a vegetable vendor as she helped herself to handful of his beans. The young vendor yelled back and watched helplessly as the woman moved onto the vendor beside him where she repeated her open shop lifting manner of getting her day’s food supply. Soon without her paying a cent her plastic bag is full of food.
An Asian tourist haggles with the wood vendor offering “3O0 dirham.”
The vendor shakes his head in despair and said “1000 dirham.”
Dressed in stylish clothing, expensive cameras around their necks to the tourists this is a game to the vendor this is food for his children.
Mustapha a quadriplegic sits in his wheelchair and paints by mouth, selling his postcard pictures for 20 dirham. We first met him in 2008 on our first visit to Essaouira. He asked me to send him a photograph I have taken of him. I wrote down his address but I will have it developed while we are staying in Essaouira.
At the beach the camel herder invites me to, “Come touch the camel.” Youssef offers to take me on a camel ride down the beach to the castle. There are several camel herders waiting for the tourists but this is the offseason and I am the only tourist in sight. Youssef introduces me to the camel Obama to Moses the camel with blue eyes.
At the end of the day, young men and boys are out playing soccer on the beach cheered by the crowds of women, children and older men.
The sunsets behind the fishing village and the cafes are filled with couples and families drinking thé à la menthe a sweet mint tea that is delicious. A perfect ending to the day.