After the hustle that was the souks of Marrakesh, it was a refreshing change to wander about the souks in the medina in Essaouira where ‘no thanks’ was accepted as a polite rebuke, only occasionally met with eyes thrown to heaven or mutterings about what I assume was the equivalent of ‘bloody foreigners’. And in Essaouira, the mix was surreal: carcasses of meat hanging between the latest designer knockoffs.
Sunshine during the day was lovely. Lots of cafés to stop off in and watch the world go by. Plenty of mosques to create a cacophony five times daily, including one just across the street from our blue-shuttered flat. The couple of days I spent in bed, sick, were interesting to say the least. I really should have paid more attention to the list of restaurants the landlady left for us. Her note beside one saying it was okay to eat the salads there should have rung an alarm bell and made me realise that it might not be okay to eat the salads elsewhere. Add that to taking over-the-counter antibiotics and overdosing on the paracetamol and it was a recipe for disaster.
Moroccan flats are bloody cold in winter. No heating systems. Twenty-four degrees outside and four degrees inside. I had plenty of time to wonder what I’d do were I to move over and I’m still none the wiser. That said, I think I still want to give it a go.
The view from the flat looked down over a row of shops, one of which was kept going into the small hours of the morning, whatever it was he was selling. The rooftops are covered with satellite dishes. Internet is cheap – just €2 for 400 MB and about €12 for a data card to make your own home wifi. It’s all a little at odds with the other-worldly feeling that permeates the place.
And much and all as I like to drive, being in a world within walls where no cars are allowed was very therapeutic. The whole place is a Unesco Heritage Site and so well it should be protected. A bolthole from the madness that lives just over the parapets.
My wish for 2016 is that I somehow find the money to buy a flat somewhere, just so that I can come back to Essaouira and furnish it. The carpets. The sconces. The leather. The pottery. The bedspreads. The choices. Truly a shopping heaven and so very very different from the proliferation of sameness that has beset the highstreets of Europe.
But outside the walls that enclose this sleepy haven, the tides push and pull, fighting to make themselves heard. The surf rages. The seagulls compete with the muezzins come prayer time. It’s all in such stark contrast and from the inside looking out, quite spectacular. A fitting place indeed for Jimi Hendrix to have written When the wind cries Mary.