We both love early starts and today began with quite a surprise. The wonderful charming staff invited us to the rooftop of the Riad. We sat under a canopy where we enjoyed the surroundings of immaculate furnishings, not to mention the Moroccan hospitality. Before us we see a beautiful clear blue sky and the city spread out before us and what I hadn’t seen before on any previous trips, a crystal clear view of the full glory of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. I had never been to Morocco so early on in the year. In warmer months a heat haze causes the mountains to vanish so it was refreshing to experience the freshness and clarity of an early year visit to Morocco. I was later told in the trip by our host that they had a marvelous time taking out their work team for a thank you treat by skiing in the mountains. I laughed to myself thinking I’d been brought up as a child in Africa; I would have never associated snow with this continent!
After an over-indulgent breakfast of traditional Moroccan pancakes with honey washed down with the freshest of orange juice, we depart, walking via the souks, trying to resist shopping and locating our bus heading for our coastal destination of Essaouira. The journey from Marrakech to the coastal town region is a wonderful ride that gives us a visual treat of this remarkable country, from goat-herders to lush agriculture contrasted with desert rock moon-like landscapes. Traveling this route really gives you a small flavor of the many things this exciting country has to offer.
Our destination turns out to be a day of sibling bliss. If there is one thing that brings our family rushing to the table, it’s seafood. Squabbling over prawns and swiping the largest ones off each other’s plates we enjoy a fantastic meal together.
The harbor, when a fresh haul comes in has seagulls ducking and diving for food. It reminds me of such a scenario of the Hitchcock 1963 film ‘ The Birds.’ It’s rare to see such a healthy variety of fish species in such a small space. This is very much a working fishing harbor. Shark, moray eels, rays, sardines, lobsters… You name it, as well as indescribable looking creatures, it’s all here.
Locals squatting over their extra-terrestrial species, take the time to smile, chat and explain what they have to sell. Wendy soon realizes that as she points her camera at the ladies, they cover their faces with their shawls and put their hands up. It is important we observe etiquette and respect and we must adhere to this. Although it’s refreshing to see such variety, I get upset seeing top marine predators like sharks being caught as they play an essential role in keeping the ecosystem balance healthy. I bite my tongue and say nothing.
We quite eagerly settle for the usual seafood platter, omitting tuna as this still is becoming an overfished species. We settle first at a basic little BBQ shack where the locals and fishermen are eating. They look at us, smile and throw on a selection of sardines and calamari. Wendy and I look at each other in total bliss. This, however, was only our starters and as we saunter back through the harbor to find a more upmarket restaurant, we are touted by the most humorous and engaging host who takes the time to proudly display his variety of fish and explain in depth what they are.