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Essaouira, bold as love

June 28, 2016

Exhausted from the nonstop shopping and solicitation in Marrakech, we decided to trek out to the coastal Essaouira. Essaouira reputed for its beaches, its windsurfing, and its vague but enduring connection to Jimi Hendrix, who supposedly wrote Castles Made of Sand from Axis: Bold as Love about his several-months long stay in the city (it was actually written years before).

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The road to Essaouira

The goal was relaxation and, well, some of the same shopping we were escaping in Marrakech—Essaouira has some of the finer silver sellers in the country. But Essaouira is a resort town, and thus known for its beaches, and because beaches mean relaxation, beach it we did.

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Natalia and Sergio on the Essaouira coast

Note that tourist season doesn’t begin until June and doesn’t hit its peak until August. Note, too, that this may be the reason why the local authorities saw no reason to actually clean the beach. There were not one but two rings of trash on the main stretch of beach. The one further back appeared to be the older ring, accumulating like sediment over many high tides and many weeks, while the lower ring was the trash of the day.

This wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact that the beach was also very shallow. Which means that when the tide started coming in, it came in quick. We would be lying down, tanning and reading, some 20 feet from the tideline, when within a minute the water would start creeping towards us with whatever detritus was riding on top. We had to move three times to keep from getting covered in the foamy sludge that was only maybe sea protein. On our way out, we almost got whacked by rocks a kid with a backpack was pelting at three other bathing-suited kids hiding by walls a few feet away from us. Not your typical beach resort—Morocco keeps it interesting.

In any event, the city is gorgeous and the beach still worth it in spite of the trash. We lunched over fish recommended by the garrulous and dentally-unselfconscious parking lot owner Aziz, who spent much of the 15 minutes on the way to the place telling us how lucky we were to be led to this restaurant and insisting on his magnanimous unwillingness to be rewarded for the favor. (The restaurant was pretty good. I ate sablefish and fended off a stray cat watching me eat outside our window.)

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Essaouira as the sun sets

After the beach and a productive bout of jewelry haggling, we watched the sunset on a whitewashed rooftop restaurant with live music largely catering to the French tourists—the band included a keytar and played mostly French anthem rock.

And then, it was goodbye Essaouira. Back on our way to Marrakech. Shortly thereafter on the plane home to the United States. I bid Morocco farewell, then rolled my way into the Marrakech Menera Airport about 25 pounds heavier with Moroccan sweets, dishes, bags, chess sets, belts, hats, spices, kettles, djellaba beads, drums, onyx camels…

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