Discovering (the real) Morocco
I was in Morocco for twelve days to celebrate my twenty-six birthday and while I do like being the life of the party I did want to experience Morocco in its natural state. Somewhere that was away from tourist cities like Marrakech and Casablanca. I found that in a small beach town on the coast named Essaouira. Essaouira is known for having the best waves for surfing and other water sports. It is a great way to experience life as a local.
My friend Emily and I were staying at an AirBnB during our stay in Marrakech and were luck enough that it came with a driver, Cherif. Cherif was able to take use to Essaouira for the day and back for 1000 dirham or $100, which we split between us both. He also informed us of where things were and some good restaurant. Thanks to Cherif, we were able to see the famous goats perching on the Argan tree as our entrance into Essaouira. That will be definitely the top 3 of my experiences abroad this year.
We were let out in front of the old Medina, or market place. My goal was to get the local’s experience with food and haggle for deals from the merchants. I had to get some real organic Argan oil and raffia sandals, these are sandals handmade with straw that are dye into different colors. I did not spend more than 400 dIrham or $40. I was also able to get a linen hoodie as well for 100 dIrham or $10 thanks to my haggling abilities. If they would not meet me at a fair price I would just walk off and find another merchant. My friend on the other hand did not attempt to do that and was taken advantage of on the price for a coin purse as we later found out from Cherif. He stated that it was more than likely because she was obviously a tourist.
We roamed the medina for about an hour or so and enjoyed from fresh orange juice and mint tea. These two drinks are known as thirst quenchers common to the area. I have to say hands down that was the best orange juice I have ever had. Tangy and pulp mixed in one. I also enjoyed the mint tea but it was a little too hot for me to drink. The weather was around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which was nowhere near as hot as Marrakech’s 100 plus degrees Fahrenheit.
After getting all our souvenirs we decided to hit the beach and grab a bite to eat. We enjoyed some street food in the Medina (Morocco is known for its street food). I got a sandwich and my friend had falafel that she said was the best she had ever had before. My sandwich not so good as was most of the food, but the experience itself covered all of the bad that came with it.
The winds from the Atlantic Ocean hit my face as I heard children’s feet hitting the water as their mother chased after them and watched young men play soccer. The visual of the horses and camels along the beach and the sails of windsurfers and kites flying high made the moment so serene. I felt so mindful and in the moment.
My friend did get a lot of attention because she is white and covered in tattoos so she was considered a rarity. Young Moroccan guys continued to approach us for photos or to take her out for a ride on a horse. A lot of the guys there were sun kissed and had blonde highlights like a typical surfer dudes but with French accents (lingua franca of Morocco). Exercising my limited French skill, I had to ask one of them where the best spots where to get a beer and the surfer dudes were the perfect ones to ask.
I found a nice little beachside restaurant to drink a couple beers and get a veggie burger. I got to people watch and rest a little before I continued on to the end of the beach. The music was great and the prices for food and beer were quite reasonable. After ending finish off my last beer we headed to finish our journey on the beach.
As I walked to the end of the beach I was able to see a lot of the surfing and watersports Essaouira is known for in action. A lot of them were Europeans on vacation. I heard some speaking Spanish, French, Portuguese and other dialects of Arabic from neighboring African countries. It was pretty exciting even though I was not bold enough to go out there myself. I actually never put my swimsuit on because I had read in a lot of blogs that stated two-pieces were frowned upon because it was a Muslim country and Essaouira in particularly.
It is a smaller city and while it does have some tourism does not see the traffic that Casablanca and Marrakech see so revealing clothing was viewed negatively and caused unwanted attention. This was VERY misleading. I saw women of all backgrounds in bikinis and no one seemed to really care or approach them. I did get a good tan and avoided a good chance of sunburn by covering my shoulders but it would have made my suitcase a lot lighter if I knew I could have worn my tank tops.
Once we got to the end of the beach we got to a rock that looked like it belonged to a lighthouse or some type of accommodations that had been ruined. Clamshells and crabs were all over the rock. There were also some young men just relaxing away from the crowds of children frolicking in the ocean. I took this moment to really appreciate the serenity of being there and enjoying another year of my life going by and all the adventures I was able to experience this year. Twenty-six start on a positive note. This year is going to bring even greater things than the years before.
What should you take away from this? 1. Whenever you travel spend at least one day living as a local, because that is the true experience. 2. Always make sure you track your travels, feelings and thoughts to keep some sanity. 3. Not everything has to go on Facebook, IG or Snapchat. Finally, when in places like Morocco with a merchant economy always use your bargaining skills and if they do not work with you walk away you will find whatever you needed somewhere else for the price you wanted.