Bus from Marrakesh to Essaouira
The bus station was almost outside our door, so we were off. We had expected to find some street food along the way, or at the station, but when we got there, someone finding out we were off to Essaouira said the bus was leaving immediately. We could get a ticket for 70Dh each. Not trusting him (as the experience from Beni Mellal had taught us) we went into the station. The guy that wanted to help us the first day we arrived in Marrakesh was there. He took us to the counter, but as the bus was so close to departing, we had to get the ticket at the bus. 60Dh through him. However the luggage was another 5 each. Thanking him, and having a quick chat, we found out that he is working 12 hours a day for 100dh! Still, he is one of the few good people we have met in Marrakesh – we have not been here long enough to meet many! Taking our thanks, he went back to work.
Getting on the bus, we set out. Well, not really. The bus took a while to do a u-turn, and in this time all the vendors came in selling everything from wafer biscuits to hashish. They all departed at the exit to the station though. The drive through Marrakesh didn’t take that long, and we saw massive housing blocks. Not sure of the level of wealth needed to live in them, but some looked a lot better than others. Then we were outside the city. Fields of olive trees stretched out on either side. The ground was long and flat. There really wasn’t that much interesting to report for the trip. Another 4 hour bus ride to go 176km. Our direct bus was direct in name and rout only. In each town the driver had his head stuck out the window yelling out the destination. Stopping every time someone wanted to get on board. Not sure if this is meant to happen, or if he is supplementing his income by picking up hitch hikers for the spare seats.
On arriving in Essaouira, we were swamped with people wanting to take taxies or hotels. Pushing our way out of the crowd, we stood back to take in the surrounds. It was windy, but warmer than we had expected. One nice person came up, and asked if we wanted a place to stay. On finding out it was 150Dh each, we laughed and said our budget was about 30 each. He offered another hotel for 100 for the room, with hot water. We said we would take a look. Following him out, we walked past the prison walls and up to one of the gates to the Medina. There are four gates just going through the main road to the centre of town, and this first one was the vegetable market. As soon as we went in, the wind stopped. The Medina (Mogador city) on first impression is a fortified city wall. Built in the 1760’s By the Sultan, but built by the French. Famous for its blue shutters and doors. What they don’t say is that the roads are incredibly narrow, and twist and turn in any direction. We are getting used to this now, and it is a relief that there are no bikes allowed (cars just wouldn’t fit!). Getting thoroughly lost, we were taken down one last tiny lane. The ground was uneven and water was pooling over one section. On arriving at an unmarked blue door, he knocked.
This is our new home. On entering, there is a nice central courtyard and although there is no garden, it is well done. The room is nice, and there is hot water (I remembered to run the tap for a while to check!) Hanna is our hostess, and mercy of mercies, she speaks English! (A lot of people in town do) Simou our guide departed. He was very good about it, and apparently has no relationship with the people running the place, other than that they used to employ him for odd jobs. He is a nice guy and gave us a small impromptu tour along the way. Pointing out the fish market which we never found again, a friend with a jazz bar, that we also never found and through the winding streets of the Medina.
We had a few hours until the others turned up, and went for a quick look around. The town is full of beautiful doors. Most of these are blue. The windows are blue, and the sky is blue. A great combination with the white and cream walls. Stark contrast to the browns, greys, and other earth tones of previous towns. Essaouira is a very touristic town, and there are stalls set up everywhere. The prices in the restaurants are outrageous, and we despaired of finding anywhere to eat in our budget. Crepes started at 15dh each! However we did find one small place that had crepes for 3.5dh and soup for 3. Marking it on our mental map to not find again later, we walked through the narrow winding streets. Laughed at by the women when we came to dead ends and turned around to go a different way. This is the fun of exploring a new place, and it didn’t worry us at all. We look at it as training for Fez. Making our way to the end of the walled city, back towards the bus station, we decided on a quick look outside. It was very quick. Stepping through the gate, we were hit by the wind. It is as bad as Carnarvon in WA. I was almost picked up and blown away by it. Regaining my balance, I was then blinded by sand in the eyes! So not this side. We took the two steps backwards required to get inside the gate again, and the wind disappeared completely. Half a step forward. Another half step, and wind was everywhere. The walls provide great protection. We decided to see if the other side of the town was as windy, and walked along the beach wall.
You cannot see anything other than the fortifications, but could hear the surf crashing against the rocks outside. It was warm in the sun and quite relaxed. There were not that many tourist shops here, and it was just people going about their daily lives. Hanging out washing along the wall, filling water containers from the public fountains. These are tiled in typical Moroccan fashion, with a tap sticking out of the central motif. Very much still in use all over Morocco.
Coming to a gate on the far side of the Medina, we shuffled up to the gate’s exit to gauge the wind. It was not too bad here. There was a stiff breeze, but nothing that could lift me off my feet. We ventured outside, still prepared to flee back to the wall if the wind picked up, however this was not required. On this side of the wall there were more fortifications, some still with original cannons in place. Sitting on the wall overlooking the rocks and ocean was fantastic. The wind was whipping up big waves that crashed into the rocks just off shore, and the seagulls where having fun with the air currents. We could see the fortifications to our right, the docks to our left, and another fortified island in between. A perfect place to watch sun set.
Walking past the docks, we saw a beach. This stretches out round a massive cove, and into the distance. A wind farm on the far hills harvesting the wind for a good use, as opposed to blowing sand in tourists eyes. There were a few kite surfers in the distance, and the new town of Essaouira stretched out before us.
Back into the Medina to try and find our little place for dinner. Surprisingly, we did find it again, and were ushered inside. Upstairs there is a tiny room, crowded with people. We managed to find a couple of stools, and ordered the soup. It is one of the best we have had in Morocco. Fantastic. Followed by a honeyed crepe for desert. All in all the best 9.5dh meal for the two of us. Especially when compared to the tanjines in the restaurant for 50Dh that may feed a 12y/o!
Back at the hotel we relaxed a bit. Thinking that David & Sophia would probably come in the morning now, as it was getting late. Even if they made it to Essaouira they would never be able to find this place. Suddenly there was a loud banging on the door. Going down, as Hanana doesn’t live here, we found David & Sophia outside. They had also picked up a helpful guide to show them where it was. This provided an opportunity for their guide, as the rooms were locked, and we didn’t have a key for them. Multiple phone calls, and they found a key. No problems here, and Hanana would be in tomorrow to sort out the paperwork! A much refreshing change to the last week.
I know we have been grumpy the last few posts. It is not that we don’t like Morocco, we do. Some of the people are fantastic. Many more than the bad. All the time we have met these people, but unfortunately, we just went through a rough patch. With how open Essaouira is, there are many friendly people that want to help and are genuine. This is the same everywhere, but the 10 minutes of kindness are easily overlooked by the 10 seconds of gold-digging.
The whole blog for today is doors. Essaouira is famous for it though. Photos of the town will follow tomorrow.