Tag Archives: Market Shopping

On This Day – Essaouira in Morocco

On this day in 2016 I was in the Moroccan city of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast…

I really need to be careful about making bold statements because upon returning from Morocco in December 2011 I said that I would never return there.  This is what I said…

“I enjoyed the experience of Fez, the Riad was excellent, the food was good, the sightseeing was unexpected and we were treated with courtesy and respect by everyone associated with the Riad but I have seen Morocco now and I think it may be some time before I return to North Africa as we resume our travels through Europe.”

Well, now I have to eat my words because our first overseas trip in 2016 was to Essouria on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.

Read The Full Story Here…

Morocco, Essaouira – Airports, Taxis, Seagulls and a Sunset

Essaouira Postcard

I really need to be careful about making bold statements because upon returning from Morocco in December 2011 I said that I would never return there.  This is what I said…

“I enjoyed the experience of Fez, the Riad was excellent, the food was good, the sightseeing was unexpected and we were treated with courtesy and respect by everyone associated with the Riad but I have seen Morocco now and I think it may be some time before I return to North Africa as we resume our travels through Europe.”

Well, now I have to eat my words because our first overseas trip in 2016 was to Essouria on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.  Why did I go back on my statement – return flights for less than £40 each are just too good to resist and nothing beats getting on a plane with temperatures hovering around zero and then getting off again three hours later into 20°, blue sky, sunshine and swaying palm trees.

Essaouira is only a small airport, it only gets two flights a day but there was a lot of congestion at passport control and an entry form to fill in which was probably the worst designed official form that I have ever encountered.  Despite dealing with all this bureaucratic nonsense however the queues actually went down very quickly and when it was our turn to be processed we were given our unique identity number which was theatrically stamped into our passports and waved through to where a supervisor checked them for a second time presumably to make sure it had been done properly by the first official.

Before travelling I had read some advice that said watch out for taxi drivers in Morocco who will gladly overcharge unsuspecting tourists.  That is no different from anywhere else in the world of course but I was mindful of that and took the second piece of advice which said when arriving for the first time it was advisable to take a pre-booked shuttle service because finding places for the first time in Morocco can be difficult.  At €25 it was a bit expensive but our driver was waiting for us as promised in the arrivals hall and he quickly loaded our bags and set off for the city just twenty kilometres away.

Essaouira Through A Stone Window

It was mid-afternoon and gloriously sunny so after checking in we didn’t hang around and made straight for the streets.  Immediately we were set upon by young men who wanted to help and by shop keepers who were convinced that we needed to spend all of our money in one go so we walked purposely forward as though we were wearing blinkers and went directly to the main shopping street.

The town is well laid out on a grid system which I guess is very helpful for visitors from the U.S.A. and it is much easier to navigate than either of the big cities of Marrakech or Fez so we quickly got our bearings and strolled around with some confidence and spent the remainder of the afternoon just getting familiar with the place.

Essauoira is a fortress town enclosed by high walls, crenulated ramparts and battlements, originally called Mogador the town was renamed in the eighteenth century to become ‘Souira’ (the small fortress), and then the name became ‘Es-Saouira’ (the beautifully designed).  We couldn’t argue with that and we walked from east to west and from north to south and then outside the gates and into the adjacent market place which was curiously quiet today.  Except for one persistent man with a tray of small cakes who constantly followed us around trying to convince us to buy a pastry.

At about the fourth attempt we were about to give in to his pestering sales technique but as we stood debating the choice there was a rather unfortunate incident.  There are a lot of seagulls in Essaouira on account of it being a busy fishing port and at this point one singled me out for target practice!

I know that a bit of bird poo on your shoulder is supposed to bring good luck but there is a world of difference between a little bit of sparrow dropping and a full load of seagull slop.  I wasn’t being particularly observant at the time because I was too busy looking at the cakes as the bird dropped a belly full of excrement  from its bomb hole that exploded on the pavement around me rather like a family pot of yogurt being thrown from a third-story window and a splash or two achieved a direct hit on my head!

To be perfectly honest I over reacted at this point.  Once in Spain I was relieved of my wallet in a distraction robbery which involved some piece of low life squirting mud on my jacket and then blaming a bird and while he helped me to wipe it off he skilfully robbed me.  With instant recall I immediately suspected foul play and a blazing red mist descended.  I leapt back to a space  on the pavement where there was no chance of human contact and adopted a kung fu killer pose with my hands raised as deadly weapons ready to chop first and ask questions later.

I eventually conceded that this wasn’t a robbery attempt but now with some unpleasant head wear was obliged to hurry back to the Riad to take a shower and that was the end of the afternoon sightseeing and we stayed safely inside until it was time to go and see if we could catch a sunset coming in from the Atlantic Ocean and from the chilly battlements of the town we waited with others to watch the end of day show.

Essaouira Seagull

Turkey, A Storm and A Market

Market Shopping Turkey

““Do you like that?” I’ll say in surprise since it doesn’t seem like her type of thing, and she’ll look at me as if I’m mad.  That!?” She’ll say, “No, it’s hideous” “Then why on earth,” I always want to say, “did you walk all the way over there to touch it?”                                                                                                                                             Bill Bryson – ‘Notes From a Small Island’

After the excursion tour bus breakdown fiasco we were so relieved to be back at the sanctuary of the apartment so we sat on the balcony with a beer and debated dining options.  It was our intention to go out for a meal but as we sat there the clouds began to crawl over the hills, it started to rain and a greyness descended all around us like a damp soggy blanket.

So we abandoned the dining out option and I went to the shops and to a nearby restaurant for some carry-out food.  As I walked back the sky transformed itself dramatically from grey to lilac and then to purple all fringed with black thunderous clouds and then the electrical storm began.  I only just made it back before the heavens opened, rain ran like a river down the road and there was a total power-cut.

So we had a difficult candle-lit dinner and afterwards watched the electrical light show as the storm continued to rage all around us.

The lights stayed out so eventually we gave up on restored power this evening and went to bed but sleeping proved immediately difficult.  The wind outside was howling like a pack of wild dogs and our bedroom was on the top floor underneath the balcony where furniture was being continuously rearranged and above that on the roof were the satellite dishes and the solar panels and water tanks – quite a lot of cables and ironmongery and anything that wasn’t firmly bolted down was banging and crashing away as the gusts swept through.  It was like trying to get to sleep in the front row of a Cream concert while Ginger Baker performed an all night drum solo.

Market Trash Turkey

In the morning it was still disappointingly grey and every now and then there was a squally shower of rain so we drank tea and ate breakfast inside and then I remembered that this was the day that I had been dreading – Market Day.

I have explained before that I don’t like shopping.  Kim would crawl over hot coals to get to a market but personally I would prefer to walk through Palestine wearing a Star of David tee shirt.

Anyway, it was only fair to go because after all Kim had indulged me for a couple of days visiting ancient sites so we took our umbrellas and made our way to the bus stop and then took a ride to the market.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I dislike markets.  Even after fifty years or so I can still remember the weekly trauma of being taken to Leicester Market by my mother and this experience has scarred me for life.  To begin with I don’t think it is cheap as people say it is because you have no control over quantities or selection and I don’t think it is much fun either.  I hate bartering, it is not in my nature and I much prefer to go to a supermarket where everything is clearly labelled, nicely washed and presented, where shop assistants don’t round things up to a kilo or so and I can buy a single grape if I want to.  In fact I am so far out of personal comfort zone that I could be walking about on the surface of the moon!

I don’t like the shouting, the pushing, the intimidation, the guess work and the random pricing.  I don’t like the lack of control over what I am spending and I am suspicious of the rapid transactions and not being absolutely sure that I haven’t been ripped off.  I was in such a state at one point that I walked off with someone else’s trolley bag and the distraught owner had to come chasing after me to get it back.  I could have ended up in prison for stealing!

We filled the bag with vegetables and I offered to take it back to the apartment and thankfully Kim thought that this was a good idea and released me from my ordeal.  I quickly made for the exit and the bus stop in case she changed her mind and Kim disappeared into the labyrinth of genuine fake stalls to try her luck at negotiating and to see if she could bag a bargain.  This release wasn’t so much an act of kindness on her part more a sense of relief that I was no longer tagging along.

I don’t want to generalise here but in my experience men and women have two distinct shopping styles.  Women browse and compare and ponder and take their time and men prefer the direct approach.  Women get pulled into shops by a sort of invisible tractor beam to admire shoes and drool over sparkly things but men are unaffected by this phenomenon and walk right by, women surf and men are purposeful and the two styles are completely irreconcilable.

I took the bus back to the apartment and on the short walk back stopped to do some proper shopping – beer and wine – and then I went back to the balcony to open a can and calm down.

After that there was no real improvement in the weather for the rest of the day so we spent the afternoon dodging the showers and using the balcony whenever we could and later as afternoon turned to evening we watched the sky turn from grey to purple to black and then prepared ourselves a meal (tuna nicoise and baked potato followed by baklava and ice cream) and hoped that there might be improvement the next day.