On a day trip to Essaouira (pronounced ‘S-where-a), on the Atlantic coast, we followed a two-lane road over dry land, for the 2-1/2 hour trip from Marrakech to the sea. It’s not called desert, according to Fouad, my driver, recommended by the riad where I stayed, because the southeastern border of the country is in the Sahara Desert. We passed camels and many a donkey walking slowly along the road, each carried a man perched sideways on it with feet bouncing gently, full bags on either side of the animal.
An attractive young woman led me around a women’s cooperative where argan oil is processed into cosmetics and body oils. Divorced or widowed women could find work there. She showed me the fruit, both ripe and dry, and the seed, which is called almond but not the kind we eat, and I saw how the women worked.
Fishermen brought in their nets and cleaned fish along the old ramparts while seagulls hung suspended in midair overhead, yelling, raucous, waiting for their share, white wings waving. Little blue boats were jammed in so tightly at the port that it was difficult to imagine a fisherman extracting his own and getting it out to the open water, or perhaps you could take any that were seaward.
Men repaired or painted boats, some a bold yellow.
Essaouira’s souks hawked boxes of thuya, a burled wood which polishes to a warm yellow brown, carpets, pottery, and other local crafts. Royal blue doors appeared on white buildings, but there was not the clean sharp white and blue contrast of the Greek islands—these were faded, ageing, peeling.
There was time for a walk along the beach and a stop at the seafood stalls before I had arranged to meet my driver for the return trip.
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