Morocco – Unwinding by the Sea in Essaouira

After a brief stopover in Marrakesh, we made our way to the lovely coastal town of Essaouira.  Located on the West Atlantic coast of Morocco, Essaouira sits between Casablanca & Agadir.

Known for its relaxed atmosphere, it was a perfect place to unwind for a few days.

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View from our Riad

Enroute from Marrakesh to Essaouira, we passed through valleys filled with Argan trees, famous for their Argan oil, valued for its nutritive, cosmetic & medicinal value.

As Driss (our guide) was telling us about this region, he explained that goats are often found up in the Argan trees, feeding off of the fleshy fruit produced, called drupes.

Clearly these goats were staged along the roadside for the benefit of tourists, but they were so funny nonetheless, & definitely worthy of a stop for a photo.

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Along the way, we were given the opportunity to stop at one of the Womens’ Cooperatives, this particular one related to the production of Argan Oil products.  There are a number of different cooperatives in Morocco, an initiative developed to give women work & establish their own income.

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dscn3554-1Inside the drupe is a kernel, inside the kernel are the seeds, which are used to produce the oil.  Using a stone to break open the nut like kernel, it is a long & labour intensive process to expose the seeds inside.

The seeds are then are placed into a press, seen in the picture to the left, extracting the oil from the seed.  It takes approximately 30kg of fruit to produce 1 litre of oil.  It is no wonder it is so expensive!

Armed with the knowledge of the benefits of how the oil assists in maintaining youthful skin, healthy hair & a plethora of other good things, we departed with many purchases in hand, dreaming of looking a wee bit younger!

Arriving in Essaouira, we made our way to the Riad Mimouna.  If you are unfamiliar with what a riad is, you can read more about them here.

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Lobby area

Once again, we were not disappointed in our accommodations.

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Lobby area & looking up through the centre of the Riad.

After settling in, we set out to explore the souks in the medina & the port of Essaouira.

We found the market here to be much lessdscn6186-1 intimidating than the one in Marrakesh.  In Morocco, there are no prices on anything. It is customary to make an offer if you are interested in an item.

It is important to note that once you enter into negotiation, the expectation is that you will make a purchase, at the very least with the offer you originally made.

If the vendor is not willing to sell at that price & you cannot come to an agreement, it is okay to walk away.

As Canadians, we are unaccustomed to bartering & often felt completely overwhelmed when attempting to making a purchase.

Part of our challenge was that often, we did not know what a fair value was for the intended purchase. This is especially true when it came to carpets.

Many attempts were made on our part, but quite honestly, we found the process exhausting.

If you make eye contact or express interest, you will most likely be escorted inside.

Moroccans delight in inviting you into their shops, throwing down carpet after carpet while you sip on mint tea, hoping for your approval & eventual purchase.  This process can take hours, thus you should never be in a hurry!

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Note the carpets exploding from the windows. Once inside, one could not begin to estimate how many carpets are in stock!

The souks located in the medina are colourful & varied in their choices.  Perhaps you would like some shoes or Viagra Express pour Femme?

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img_7883Moving on to the port, as we stood admiring the landscape, we were approached by a gentleman offering to give us an unofficial tour & explanation of the history of the port.*

We were only too happy to welcome his fun & interesting commentary from a local’s perspective.

*Cultural note: If you are approached & offered a service of any sort, it is expected that a tip or fee will be given in return.  It is simply the culture.  

He explained to us that the boats in the photo below are used for catching sharks.  We were stunned to think of a shark flopping around in one of these boats, out on the Atlantic ocean.  Fishermen may find themselves out for a number of days in these boats, not wanting to return until they are successful in their catch.

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This beautiful cat caught my eye.  He looked like he was king of the port, stretched out relaxing in the sun, patiently waiting for some scraps from the fish being cleaned behind him.

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So many scenes caught my eye in this beautiful coastal town.  This gentleman seemed to taking a moment to rest.  Perhaps he was like most husbands, waiting for their wife to finish shopping!

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Essaouira is bursting with seafood.  Although I am not really a fan of seafood myself, I couldn’t help but be fascinated with the variation offered fresh for your choosing.

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The guy in the middle freaks me out!

Fresh catches are presented all along the port area, encouraging passers-by to select what appeals to their appetite.

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Our choice for lunch.

After dining in the open sea air on our fresh catch, we took a walk to the beach before returning to our Riad.

img_7872-1Our time spent in Essaouira was a lovely reprieve before heading to busy Marrakesh for the last few days of our tour.  A wonderful spot in Morocco to relax & unwind by the sea.

If you ever find yourself in Marrakesh for any length of time, I would highly recommend a venture out to the seaside.

Next & final stop on our tour….Marrakesh!

Hugs,

L

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14 Responses to Morocco – Unwinding by the Sea in Essaouira

  1. Cheryl Marsh says:

    🙂 nice, how exciting to re-live! Look forward to hearing more on our weekend!
    cheers, God Bless
    c xo

    Cheryl Marsh

    Date: Thu, 8 Jan 2015 14:21:01 +0000
    To: clmavon@hotmail.com

    • Lynn says:

      With it being so cold out these past few days, writing about Morocco brings me back to a lovely warm place:)

      We are looking forward to sharing a Moroccan themed dinner with all of you Cheryl!

  2. Sue Slaght says:

    Lynn the photos are astounding! Such rich and vibrant colours. Quite the shark fishing boats I will say. Gulp.
    As far as the goats we saw goats like this in all sorts of interesting spots in the middle of nowhere Turkey on our cycling trip. I am curious as to why you thought they were staged.

    • Lynn says:

      That’s so interesting Sue. I thought Argan trees were only native to Morocco. Perhaps it is another type of tree in Turkey that the goats like to munch on? As to how we knew they were staged – there were locals standing on the side of the road with baby goats, happily posing you with them for a photo & tip!

      • Sue Slaght says:

        Oh yes that definitely is staged. I’m not sure what the goats were eating but they were on rocks and munching on most anything all over the place .There was no mention of the special trees though.

  3. restlessjo says:

    I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, Lynn! Such a riot of colour, and it’s a long held dream of mine to stay in a riad. 🙂 The nearest I’ve come so far is to win some Argan Oil 😦 But it was very good 🙂

    • Lynn says:

      Moroccan markets are full of colour Jo! We stayed in a number of riads, each one so unique!

      It is a very short plane ride from the Algarve. We flew from Toronto to Lisbon to stay for a few days. From there we hopped a quick flight to Morocco. Perhaps you need to give it some consideration!

  4. joannesisco says:

    Wow – there is so much in here to comment on!! I’ve used argan oil for a few years and it really leaves a lovely feeling on winter thirsty skin. It was really interesting to read how labour intensive the work is.
    My jaw dropped about the shark boats … they stay out on the water for days?!!! I’d be going squirrely within an hour!
    I love all the colours – especially the shoes 😉 … I suspect I would be tempted to buy many! … but bartering would definitely intimidate me.

    • Lynn says:

      The shark boats really threw us as well. The thought of sleeping in one of these boats left us stunned!

      I think that most of envision those colourful markets when we think about Morocco. They truly are spectacular! It is a difficult process trying to decide on a colour when making a purchase of any sort, they are all so beautiful.

      We never mastered the bartering thing. Admittedly, I was relieved to come home & walk into a store & see a price on merchandise! I found the whole thing to be exhausting.

      Shoes are my weakness. I did end up buying a pair, fushia pink rattan ones from a gentleman in Marrakesh. I feel like a genie when I wear them!

  5. Pingback: Morocco – Heated Hilarity in the Hamman | Life After 50

  6. Peta Kaplan says:

    Ahhh one of our favorite places in the world! Thought you might like to read our post from Essaouira and “compare notes”

    Terrific photos and memories. I never knew the information avout the shark boats….

    http://www.greenglobaltrek.com/2015/01/essaouira-a-painters-paradise.html

    Peta

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