The Windy Little Town
We arrived into Essaouira in the early evening. The sun was just starting to drop and the wind was warm. Essaouira is a small town, completely enclosed by a thick white wall where no cars can drive. We walked from the bus and asked locals along the way to direct us to our hostel. After maybe a 10 minute walk we found the door where “the creepy receptionist” (as he will be referred to from here on out) smiled and checked us in. First thing was first, had to check out the pillows. The pillows were soft, thank goodness. We were in a 10-bedroom dorm with a ridiculous layout… one bunk bed tucked so far in the corner it was hardly reachable. The ladders clanged when they were nudged and woke everyone up early in the morning and late at night. But there were lockers for our valuables which was convenient, except only 2 of the lockers actually closed and only 1 of the 3 locks we were given to use closed… so okay, semi-convenient?
We dropped our bags and locked up what we could with our one functioning lock and asked “the creepy receptionist” for recommendations for somewhere to eat dinner. He drew out the most detailed map, that only took him about… 20 minutes to put together, and then, from what we understood of his broken English and big dark hopeful eyes, he asked if he was coming along with us for dinner. Haha. Oh, welcome to Morocco. Ok, first of all, how was he going to come with us for dinner? He was WORKING! Second of all, who just throws themselves at brand new tourists in town like that? So awkward. We ended up evading it somehow and head out for dinner, just the two of us. We strolled past a hotel restaurant called Le Mechaud. The menu posted outside left our mouths salivating at the idea of steak and lobster… maybe above our budget, but still only 18$ for a plate! We caved. We went in.
The food was… impressive for where we were (Morocco), but rather mediocre. The service was slow and the waitress spoke less than useful English. (As in, we’d ask a question and she’d stand there nodding and smiling and not responding, haha. But hey, we made it work. That’s part of the fun of traveling right?) But oh, the best part of the experience, was the bus boy. The bus boy, not even currently working our table as we were still enjoying our average lobster and thin little steak, approached our table and asked if we liked night clubs. Well obviously we assumed he was trying to help out the tourists and offer up some local info, so we said we did and asked if he had any tips. He told us there was a night club next door, then smiled and said he’d be off work at midnight and instructing us to meet him there, scribbling his phone number onto a napkin for us. Awkward! And not to mention wildly inappropriate. This wasn’t even a cheap food stand we’d stumbled upon who wasn’t making nearly enough money to care about a little thing called etiquette. We were eating lobster! We were surrounded by other tourists, all of whom were NOT approached with night club date offers. Infuriated, we left the note on the table with the bill, hoping he would get the point. As you can tell the relentless Moroccan men were starting to get to us… (although on our last day there we savored the I LOVE YOU shouts and constant compliments as we knew that it was highly unlikely we’d get any sort of comparable attention back in Canada… our poor inflated egos would just deflate).
We trudged back to the hostel and into the main room where “the creepy receptionist” greeted us with a 1001 questions about where we went and how it was, etc. Thank goodness… there were other people in the common room! We opened the bottle of rose we had purchased in Ourzazate and had been carting all over the country, only to discover it was completely foul. Haha, sigh. And there we met the three Australian lawyers (well, they just finished school and would start work when they got back from their 7 months of travel!), Ben, Andrew and Dave. It was so refreshing just to converse with people other than each other (not that I ever tire of late night Shai conversations, but still). Tonight we were in a hostel though, and shared a room with the three guys, so rather than our usual chats, we completely passed out in our clustered little room.
The next day we woke up late and, upon Aussie Ben’s recommendation, went out in search of crepes. Oh crepes, my love. I was so excited to hunt them down. A breakfast that didn’t include rolls and butter and jam and Moroccan flat pancake things. Finally! I had been dreaming of Nutella for over a week now! We followed some twists and turns and eventually spotted a little hand-written sign at a restaurant/food stand with a list of crepes! We sat and ordered up our Nutella and sat chatting with our table-neighbors… the sweetest little retired American couple. They had come to Morocco two months earlier with the Peace Corp and would be living here for 2 years! So impressive! They were learning the language and everything. The woman chatted on and on about her sons who were apparently perfect, except they weren’t married. She may have made a comment or two about taking us home with her to fix us up. Haha. Maybe if I could have seen a wallet-size photo first at least! 🙂 Finally, my crepe arrived, but much to my dismay, was completely black – burnt to a crisp! I tried to eat through it, but my heart was sinking with every bite, so I tried, in my very best broken English/French to explain to the guy that I needed a fresh one – free of charge. This is something that is just not done in Morocco, from what we’d seen thus far anyway. But he laughed, as it truly was obvious to anyone that it was inedible, and fired me up a new one. (Don’t worry, this one did the trick. Mmmm Nutella.)
After our breakfast, we said farewell to our future mother and father-in-law and strolled through the town, up to the coast. Essauoira, although we had our doubts the previous night when we had arrived, was extraordinary. Definitely the most picturesque place we visited the entire trip. (Well, maybe next to the Sahara.) We got lots of great shots of the blue fishing boats piled next to each other in the harbour, the seagulls, the thick white walls, the crashing tide and the beach that stretched out in front of the city. It was such a relaxing day. No concept of time. Stopping for a fresh squeezed orange juice here and there. Picked up some Argan oil cosmetic creams. Some tuques. But not shopping with any intensity. We walked along the beach. The sand was much cooler than in Agadir. The sun was not as hot, but the wind was still warm. It was humid, my favorite. We strolled through the side streets, in no hurry to find our way back to our hostel, but with that as our eventual goal of course. We passed a little 5 or 6 year old boy, playing alone outside. “Bonjour” we said, as we passed him by. He began to tip toe behind me a little (and yes, just to be safe, i held my bag shut with one hand but assumed he was just being cute and friendly and following us). All of a sudden… PINCH! I whirled around to see him standing there with a devious little grin on his face. This CHILD had just pinched my ass! No word of a lie! I was completely startled! I tried to scold him and tell him that was bad and not to do that… HE MOCKED ME! I couldn’t believe it. So young, and already sooooo vulgar! Thank goodness our hostel was just around the corner so we could slip in and out of the streets and away from the creepy pervy little boys!
After a leisurely evening nap (who can blame us after such a long, hard day right?), we went out in search of dinner. We decided not to ask “the creepy receptionist” for ideas this time, and explore on our own. Much easier to do now that we had a better grip on the town. We wandered along the beach and watched the groups of boys playing soccer in the sand. Most of the beach restaurants posted menus with prices a little over our budget (which was especially tight after our splurge the night before), but we managed to find a little place with checkered table cloths and cheap wine that served us each a fine fresh pizza. We drank a few glasses and watched the sun set over the ocean. Just before the restaurant closed, we started chatting with the two girls next to us… two English girls… yes! Two girls traveling in Morocco besides us! Amazing right? Natalie and Joanna were on holiday with their parents in Essauoira and had been their a few days already. They told us about their experiences trying out the local night clubs. Apparently there are prostitutes that hang around in there and go for only 20dh! While we were of course appalled by this, apparently the local prostitutes are rather popular with the French tourists. The things you learn…. So rather than a night club, we all decided to go for a shisa smoke, since we hadn’t yet done that in Morocco and it was definitely on our list!
Guess where we ended up? Back at Le Mechaud. We sat outside this time and ordered up a hooka with apple tobacco. Guess who brought it over? Yup, the bus boy. We tensed up the moment we saw him walking towards us, terrified we’d have to deal with more presumptuous invitations and flirting, but turns out, he must have gotten the “forgotten” note, and therefore, got the hint. Alas, we got to sit in peace, teaching sweet Natalie how to inhale and relaxing in the apple-flavored fumes. A lovely evening to end our time in Essauoria. (The shisa was good, but we happened to smoke it again in London after our trip and it was MUCH better there… interesting hey?)
Oh, and finally. In review of the hostel… don’t stay there. In addition to “the creepy receptionist”, we sent in our laundry and it came back soaking wet… and we later found out, with a few pieces stolen. Sometimes hostels are such a drag. This one definitely was though. Note to future Moroccan travelers!