Friday, April 8, 2011

Because Jimi Said So

The wind of Essaouira generally blows in off the water, resting on the small island of the mainland devoted to the preservation of the area’s falcon population, but on the first windy day, we recalled the guidebook’s suggestion that “it is the type of wind that reputedly drives people crazy.”  In the morning, it breezed through the marketplace as we strolled, around the feral cats selling rugs, endless cups of thé du menthe, seagulls the size of castles, and fish vendors whose price rose or lowered depending on the buyer’s skin colour.  

Not to be defeated by the weather, we went to the beach, attempting to film the effects of the wind’s strength through physical representations and photographs of the sand.  This was not a day at the beach meant for collecting shells and freckles, but rather for playing with the weather.  But with no place to be and no specific time to be there, why not play on the beach?  We were in Essaouira, after all, the town known for its laid back attitude.

Essaouira is sleepy beach town we stumbled on while making our way through the “Atlantic Coast” chapter of our Lonely Planet Morocco guide.  Known for its prominence in the 18th century as a trading post on the Asia/Africa/Europe routes, Essaouira remains a great stop off to this day (as we read, however, Jimi Hendrix and his hippie cohorts saw it in a different light than the place to buy gold, salt, or ostrich feathers.)  The guide book told us it was the “kind of place where people come and hang out rather than go sightseeing.”  We did just that.  Within hours of arriving at our riad (multi-storey townhouse set around a central garden) after a long bus ride from El Jadida, we extended our stay with the gut feeling that we’d like it there.  The day we arrived was the 3 month mark that we’d been on the road, and the thought of being somewhere known for its laissez-faire state of being sounded perfect.  

As I detailed in our blog post about our daily goings-on, we’ve worked hard to maintain our usual interests and ways in which we pass the time, but in different locations.  Essaouira was the perfect place to relax and just be.  The joy of being on the road for so long is having the time to do some things that the usual grind often prohibits and/or we pass off as being something to do later.  People watching, chasing the wind, reading an entire book in two days, wandering down the same street several times in one day, eating a long lunch on a park bench, playing with the camera settings, pausing to look at every street cat, gallery browsing, writing, observing children playing, and imitating the local wildlife are just some ways we’ve been spending our days in towns known for “hanging out.”  

As I write, I’m listening to the street sounds of Marrakech outside our window, already missing Essaouira and its calming effects.  It’s been important for us to not only hit the big cities on this trip.  When one generally thinks of Morocco, street markets, bustling cities, and Rick’s American Café come to mind, but the little places, too, make up this lovely country.  As travelers, some of our favourite times have been spent hanging out in smaller towns.  We’ve still got many cities on our agenda, but if we’ve learned anything from Essaouira, it’s to not overlook the little places – and to go with your gut feeling to extend your stay in the small towns.  It’s usually worth it.  And maybe with your free time in the small town, whiling away the hours, you could even build a castle made of sand before the wind takes it away….we know Jimi tried:


  1. Ahhh, I think I'd like it there.... Happy 3 months you guys!!!

  2. Lovely. Many, many years ago, I spent four months traveling around Europe. Of course, I loved most of the larger cities, but I learned more from the tiny towns we meandered through, and sometimes stayed in, about the people and culture. Happy three months. Love reading your blog.