Essaouira on the spur of the moment

“Let’s go to Essaouira,” Dan said to me on our second day in Marrakech. We had only one more day and then we planned to catch a train back to Casablanca. The train takes about three hours, and we’d have to pack and check out and get to the station and all that, so we’d blocked out a day for the trip, with some comfortable loose time on either end.

“But there’s so much we still haven’t seen in Marrakech!” I protested.

“We can do it on the way to Casablanca.”

“But the train doesn’t go to Essaouira.”

“Let’s hire a car and driver. Then we can do it.” And he pointed out that it’s only a relatively short drive to Essaouira, and then–how pleasant!–we could meander up the coast roads from Essaouira to Casablanca, a distance approximately the same as that from Marrakech to Casablanca. It looked like a good idea.

Appearances notwithstanding, it turned out that Essaouira is not on the way to Casablanca, that the coast road was not something a person could meander up in just a few hours. The only reasonable way from Essaouira to Casablanca is to return almost to Marrakech and pick up the highway. No one, but no one, plans to drive from Marrakech to Essaouira, tour Essaouira in any kind of reasonable fashion, and then make it from Essaouira to Casablanca in just one day. But what did we know?

I called Youssef at Morocco Expert Tours, the company that had arranged our excellent desert tour, and explained what we wanted. Nothing much. Just to find a car and a driver at the last minute during the busiest season of the year to go off on a long all-day half-crazy drive. And Youssef, bless his helpful heart said, “Let me see what I can do.”

And sure enough, he found Hamid, an easygoing driver for us, and a car. And in addition to his willingness to take on our daunting task, Hamid also shared our sense of humor and laughed at our jokes!

You may remember the photograph of the goats in the argan tree with which I started the Morocco part of this blog.

smIMG_0986That was on the way from Marrakech to Essaouira.

And now for a word about Essaouira, with more details to follow in subsequent posts. The city is a delightful blend of many elements: eighteenth century fortifications embracing a quintessentially Moroccan city with a history that goes back to the Phoenicians. Wide beaches and surf pounding on treacherous rocks. A vibrant fishing port and a thriving tourist industry. It almost doesn’t seem these pieces could fit together, but…they do.

sm10 IMG_1001We had only (I forget) two or three hours between when Hamid dropped us off and when we’d agreed to meet again. So after enjoying the sight (but not the experience) of the beach…

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…and noting with interest a wind farm across the bay…

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we came to the port area of the old city.

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We passed a boat yard…

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and a vibrant and lively fishing port.

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And then we entered the medina of the old city through the Bab al Minzah gate.

sm 09 IMG_1000 bab al minzah

 

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