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Thursday 16 Aug
Essaouira, Morocco

Baboon Butts and Bug Lips! (continued)

Imogen spotted a couple of skirts she liked on the way back to the hostel. An impromptu 'stall' appeared out of nowhere, when a man materialised from a side alley, ripped open a bag and dumped a pile of skirts on the floor. We looked on in amazement, as what seemed like the entire Essaouiran female population descended like a plague of locusts in ten seconds flat, on the pile of skirts! There followed much poking, prodding, discussion, skirt snatching and loud arguments amidst which, Imogen dived headlong into and emerged triumphant holding two skirts aloft, huge beaming smile across her face. She haggled furiously and paid ten dirhams for the pair, or less than a quid. Oooh, I think I have a rival for the title 'Queen of Haggle'! Actually Imogen is an excellent partner in crime in the haggling stakes and particularly enjoys playing the role of 'bad cop', complete with her speciality eye rolls and disgusted 'I don't think so's'.
I'm feeling rather tender shouldered tonight, after catching a lot more sun than I thought. Mind you, perhaps it's windburn rather than sunburn! Back at the cave, one of the other 'cave dwellers', a Basque guy (I got soundly told off for saying he was Spanish!) gave me some good, locally produced aftersun, with peppermint in it which was really soothing. Flinn spent a good hour with him, acting as 'artistic director' with his very expensive, very nice (I'm very jealous) camera, taking surprisingly good photo's. Flinn's artistic career starts early, thanks to a professional travel photographer on assignment in Morocco! If it was my camera, I wouldn't have let Flinn get near it with a barge pole! Whilst this was going on, Imogen was watching Harry Potter in French and chatting to an Australian and Dutch couple. Finally tiring of taking photo's, Flinn decided to bend my ear about having more prickly pears to eat - he ate rather a lot of them today and was clearly well and truly over his aversion to their pips!
After settling down on the bunk, Flinn drew pictures of his day and Imogen had a language lesson, aimed at getting rid of "slimey, sly guys wanting to marry me" as she phrased it!
The day according to Imogen;
A long but fun day, where we explored all sorts of things. Flinn as ever, did not allow us to have a lie in as he was a man on a mission attempting to 'persuade' Biz Biz to let him have a go on the surf boards. As a result, in order not to disturb the other 'cave dwellers', we went out early! It was actually good getting out early, as we got to see the locals setting up there stalls and going about their early morning business, although even some of them were still asleep in doorways - it's very annoying seeing others snoozing away when thats all you want to do yourself!
We wandered around the little alleys and made our way down to the medina walls on the seafront and up to the Skala and Skala du Port. Mam got some great photo's from the walls of the fort and Flinn enjoyed playing pirates. We found out that Essaouira used to be called Mogador, and was a well known pirate haven back in history. Looking down from the walls of the fort, it's not hard to see why this was a good place for pirates and smugglers to come to, with the huge Atlantic waves and rock formations to hide behind on one side of the peninsula and a calm cove and sand dunes on the other.
We found the fish market - using our noses - and left fairly quickly soon after. Phew, what a stink!. All you can smell in Essaouira is fish, therefore, you can imagine just how strong the smell was at the market, to prompt us into leaving so soon after arriving. Flinn was fascinated watching the fishermen land their catch, dumping their nets onto the jetty and de-gutting the fish right then and there. As you can imagine, fish features high on the list of food offerings in Essaouira. In fact, if you don't like fish - or seagulls, don't visit this town!!
We walked round to the beach and endured a sand blasting and 'fish in a bowl' type experience thanks to all the locals watching our every move! No wonder this place is known as 'Windy City, Africa' - that certainly ain't no lie! Flinn enjoyed flying the pocket kite that Mam had fortuitously packed in the luggage before we left, thinking that it may well be a good distraction at some point. Flinn ran around screeching and screaming, gathering a little tribe of local kids along the way, much like the pied piper of Hamlin. It was funny to watch.
After dragging Flinn away from the beach, which wasn't much fun to sit on thanks to the wind, we took his mind off it by going for an ice-cream. If there is one thing guaranteed to re-focus Flinn's attention, its ice-cream! We also found a tiny local tea shop in a quiet courtyard and sat drinking copious amounts of mint tea, which despite the amount of sugar, is actually very refreshing. Mam's not as fussed on it as she finds it far too sweet and prefers her strong, dark Moroccan coffee - no surprises there for us, but every time she asks for it, she gets looks of disbelief, as most Westerners don't drink it. As Mam correctly states, "I'm not most Westerners!"
I had my usual entourage of wierdo's, well-wishers and hopeful husbands to be. One was very persistant and insisted that I have some Berber lipstick. I didn't have much choice as a horde of women descended on me and started miming how I was to put it on. Some even attempted putting it on me! Hardly the same as a Western 'facial' experience!
We just poked around here and there for the rest of the day, debating such things as "Why are they parading a cow through the street? What is it with that irritating snake charming style music that after two minutes, makes you want to scream AND grit your teeth? Why is it that all the melons in the fruit market have red 'bullseyes' painted on either end?"
At sunset we went down to the Skala walls, to watch the supposed amazing sight of the sun setting over the seawalls. All I can say is 'yeah right'. It was like watching paint dry and amazingly unamazing to boot! Flinn enjoyed terrorising the seagulls though, so that kept him amused for quite some time.
In the square, bands were setting up for the annual Gnaoua music festival. The music was actually good. We sat and listened for a while whilst carrying out our absolute favourite pastime of all - people watching. Mam and I get a real kick out of it as you spot all sorts of interesting things. We were amazed to see hundreds of local women sat around the square, relaxing, chattering and scoffing ice-cream without a care in the world! Normally they are hidden away in the depths of dark rooms, or behind their headscarves, but much less so than other Arabic countries.
We went for supper in a little place off the beaten track, only to be 'found' by the cow parading men, complete with two man band. Oh god - please no - let me enjoy my meal in peace and quiet. I just can't hack that whining, snake charming music at close quarters. We studiously ignored them hoping they'd get the hint and move on. They didn't. We were fascinated by the odd dance they did though and the eyes of one of the men - very, very strange. Flinn caused us much amusement by yelling "Look Mama. Look Imogen. That cow man has chameleon eyes!!" And he was quite right - both eyes seemed to be swivelling in opposite directions. Mam kept telling us to stop staring, but it was like passing a car crash - you can't help but stare! It was mesmerising! Mam was saying that she was about to pay them to go away, but fortunately for us, they moved on. I pity the next people they pounce on! So adieu cow, two dancing men, irritating music and googley, swivelling, chameleon eyes!!
We had planned to stay here for five days, however, once you get inside the medina, the town is actually very small and once you've been around everything a few times, there isn't a whole lot to do.
Continued .....

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Morocco, 20 days, 1 backpack, 2 kids & 1 stressed out mother!

Travel blog by rachelmurray

 


Morocco - land of adventure, medieval cities, remote villages, mountains, Berbers, snake charmers, donkeys and .... um .... 'rocks' according to Flinn, age 5, who frequently tells me that "Mo - rocc - o - that means lots of rocks mama!"

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