December 29-31, 2006

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We spend three days in Essaouira - and it was worth it. This area has seen a lot of history - starting from prehistory to Carthaginian trading post in 5th century BC, to Portuguese fortress in 1506 to actual city being built in 18th century. It is called the "windy city" which windsurfers take advantage of. It is a small fishing port with a late 18th-century fortified medina. It has less than 60,000 people.

On the first day, we walk around the port and meet a very nice student. Given our previous experience, we were waiting for the "upsell" - but this young man just wanted to practice his English. We learn many things from him (whether they are true or not is up to you):

  • Superstition affects much of the daily life. For example:
  • Do not put "warm water" in the toilet after midnight otherwise a spirit/genie will come to possess you.
  • Do not read the Koran in "dirty" places - else you *will* be possessed (like his sister was)
  • Spirits do not like silver/iron-so put metal/daggers next to your bed/under your pillow
  • Spirits won't cross your house if you put certain symbols on your front door
  • Politeness is not a concept in daily life (we did notice a fair amount of this):
  • Many will see a line and just believe that they can go to the front-"just because they can"
  • Screaming in public at people is totally acceptable
  • It's okay to turn in homework weeks late
  • It's okay to show up at an appointment hours late. An excuse is not owed
  • Islam is mostly "optional" but pervades much of the life.
  • Less than "40%" practice and it is decreasing
  • Many people who go to pray do so to "show off" to their neighbors
  • Yet every city calls adhan ("call to prayer") five times a day (and everyone ignores it)
  • The second day, we went horse riding and walked around the town. We started to see preparations for Eid ul-Adha. This is a commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismael.

    The third day, New Year's Eve, we become quite ill. We walk a little and see the results of Eid A-Adha. Pictures of this day are graphic so we put them in a separate page. Only click here if you have strong stomachs Unfortunately the smell of the burning sheep heads pervades the entire city -- so we mostly stay in our room.
    The smell had not left the town - so we decide to leave as quickly as possible the next day.

    Feel free to right click and "Save As..." pictures you especially like for personal use. For the high resolution original, email me at logrus101 at yahoo dot com. We humbly ask for credit. If you are linking to these or using them for non-personal use, ask permission at the same email address. ^_^

    Essaouira is a fortified port with fishing boats...
    ... and fortified doors and walls ...
    ... and ramparts with cannons, water, towers and seagulls ...
    ... and very nice sunsets.
    We stayed in the medina at the Riad "Villa Bagdad", recommended by the Lonely Planet guide. A Riad is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden. The house was 3 floors high. In the center is the garden with no roof. Rooms are all around the center. On the first floor, the rooms are open and used for entertaining, cooking, eating.
    The eating room in this picture is on the first floor. The garden is off camera to the right.
    ... this is the garden in the center of the Riad (looking down from the roof)...
    Each room is beautifully decorated with various rugs and themed objects from all over Africa.
    The bathroom is heavily tiled. The shower head is, of course, too low!
    As we walk the medina, people are selling all sorts of things... Mint anyone?
    ... spices ...

    Moroccan Viagra (center lower row), roots to fatten up (left lower row) & flowers to keep air (right lower row) ...

    ... paintings ...

    We saw the same paintings in every medina we visited!

    ... pottery ...
    ... raisins & dates in bulk ...
    ... woodwork pieces. Essaouira is well known for work using Thuya- a highly prized wood with a delicious perfume.
    Click to watch
    We tried to capture the feverishness of the market/medina. Every vendor is selling his wares. This AVI lasts about 15 seconds.
    We also observe many cats. Cats are pretty much everywhere in the city. They will often come to you in restaurants when you are eating.
    ... Cats & chickens.... of course.
    We ride for hours along the beach. Galloping on the beach is a lot of fun!
    We see some technology. For example... this arcade hall, occupied with kids.
    We find ATMs in pretty much every town. However - technology isn't always the best... especially if they relied on ....
    XP? I wonder where you put the CD and hit "R" to fix the missing files in \config\system?
    We enjoy watching the people, the variety of means of transport, the activities etc.

    Women are "liberated" in Morocco and, unlike this picture, many women do not cover their heads.

    NOTE: the temperature was interesting - it is their winter-and just like in Thailand - their "cold" was pretty warm for us.
    In the morning and at night, we are pretty cold (low to mid-40s) but by mid-day, it is pretty warm (mid-60s to 70s)

    The mean age of Morocco is 24 (in the US, it's 37). Many of the people we saw are pretty young.
    Children are everywhere and, unlike in the US and Europe, they are free to do whatever they want most of the time. School is not mandatory and they are often selling or making stuff.
    Another person wearing a Berber cloak (in gray).
    Women selling...
    Men/boys do most of the kitting/sewing...
    Men often touch each other, hold each other's hands, etc. in public. This is pretty gender-orientation confusing to us....
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