24th December: Christmas Eve sun and sand in Essaouira

Today we had a 2 and a half hour journey to the Atlantic coast to visit the pretty seaside town of Essaouira, with its port, ramparts, beach and medina. After a lovely breakfast of pancakes, fresh coffee and orange juice, our driver picked us up at 9 and we set off through the chaotic roads of Marrakech.

After we left the town, the landscape was flat, barren desert, wandered by sheep with their shepherds then, after an hour or so, rolling hills appeared and the ground was a little greener. The snowy Atlas Mountains provided a stunning backdrop. When we got nearer to the coast, there were argan trees, from which argan oil is produced, and which only grow in this area. Some of the trees were full of goats and the driver stopped for us to take a look. I was handed a baby goat and John was charged for the privilege! At the next stop, a viewpoint over the coast and Essaouira, he refused to pay to have his picture taken with a camel!

When we arrived in Essaouira, we wandered through the medina. It was much quieter and more relaxed than Marrakech, with fewer people approaching us to sell their wares, and fewer shouts of  ‘special offer for you!’ but similar goods were on sale… Mainly pottery, leather and wood. The beauty of the town also attracts artists so there were lots of galleries of paintings, and there is a fish market, with all sorts of sea food on sale.

Unfortunately, the ramparts were closed for repairs, but we sat in a rooftop restaurant overlooking the walls, watching the waves crashing, and various cats sunning themselves.

After lunch we walked back through the narrow streets and past the square overlooking the sea to the fishing port.

We went up into the fort and spent some time there enjoying the views and watching the fishermen below, selling their catches, and cooking and eating them on the quayside.

It was such a lovely place, we hope to come back one day… Maybe we’ll travel along the coast in the camper van… At this time of year as the weather is perfect!

As time was getting on, we decided to wander up to the beach, near to where our driver would collect us.

We sat and had a beer, watching the sun start to drop, and boys playing football on the wide golden beach. Bliss!

The journey back seemed to take forever, although I dozed for the first hour. Once we reached the outskirts of Marrakech, the traffic was chaotic, with cars, lorries and coaches swapping lanes, and motorbikes, scooters and bicycles weaving between them all. I just shut my eyes and waited for a bang! Fortunately it never came!

The driver dropped us in the town so we could grab a snack before heading back to the riad. I’m fed up of water so I chose a non alcoholic Moroccon beer. I didn’t realise it’d have some sort of red squash in it! Sweet and a bit sickly, but another experience… As was the sliced cheese triangle in my Caesar salad, instead of Parmesan!

Today, as its Christmas Day, we are having a hammam and massage in a spa, followed by lunch in a lovely rooftop bar that we’ve been to before. I may even have a glass of champagne or two! This evening we’re having a traditional Moroccon meal to end our holiday. It should be another lovely, relaxing day.

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