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Mint tea in Essaouria

As hard as it is not to grab a board and head for the water, it has to be said that a day trip is a nice break from the routine of surf, eat, sleep. Especially if the waves are flat anyway and your shoulder feels like Pompeij the day after. A car is easily rented from enDo surf camp and so one early morning saw us head out north to Essaouira. The famed city of Blue and White on the southern Atlantic coast of Morocco is an easy three hours drive from Tamraght, made scenic by the ocean and gnarly Argan tree forests.

Will climb for food - goats eat Argan fruit. A favourite snapshot from southwest Morocco.

On all my travels, I have always preferred 'breathing in' a city rather than running around with guide and map. Essaouria is perfectly set up to loose oneself on a scenic stroll in this fashion, yet small enough not to get completely disoriented. The enchanted crooks and crannies of the Medina offer plenty of picturesque moments and the odd chance of exchanging a few words with the locals. Communication here works more or less without hassle, which I find is a distinct advantage of Morocco as a travel destination.

Tourist shops and real life still blend in Essaouira.

After a slightly overpriced fish feast at the harbour, and an extended walk on the stretching crescent of sand beach, I found myself sitting in the worst tourist trap right smack on the front line of backpackerism. Tea was overpriced, but sweet, and went extremely well with watching the hustle and bustle of al ate afternoon along the hippie trail.

Talents of tomorrow. Local basketball training.

The local mint tea is not to be compared to your regular cup of concoction. Performing the ritual of pouring and re-pouring the hot water to get a full-flavoured body with amber glow and mild but lucious scent has a distinct meditative quality. Thoughts wander and meander in synchrony to the steaming swirls, images from the street catch your eye and the individual moments extends whereas time as such shrinks. The late afternoon glow on the yellow dusty telephone booths, the two guys slapping flies across the street. Mahmoud whispering hash stories from the right. Backpacker tourists in faded Arafat shawls on their way to the cash machines, determination to spend their money on lamps, cloth or leather written all over their faces.

Need for speed. Horses provide kicks on Essaouira beach promenade.

A young Moroccan in Gucci jeans parades his baby boy on the main street amidst a group of feisty friends, his father, in stripey Djellaba comes to join and sings the praises of the familyseed as he breaks up in self-satisfied smiles. A group of ladies in colourful tchadors moves gracefully in the square, if you watch closely you can observe them sending flirtatious glances to blonde Germans from the corners of their khol-marked eyes. A fisherman walks home, dizzy from the combination of working under the glaring sun and Ramaddan fasting. His limbs seem to move independently, the gaze is hollow, empty. Any time he will fall over, you think, but he sets foot before foot, and makes it out of the picture in one piece. Hilarious – a teenager so full of testosterone he can wax his hair with it swaggers in zigzags across the street, brandishing his polished Italian shoes with a toe curve that would leave any Leningrad cowboy green with envy.

Above all, chatter. Murmurs from darker corners, pling-pling songs from Rasta guitars, a shout to shoo away the begging children, a greeting, a handshake with the retracted hand cupped over the heart, a mother dragging her screaming child, laughter from the waiters preparing refreshments.

The splash of mint tea in the glass.

The clink of the swirling spoon.

The scratch of a last undissolved sugar crystal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the last sentence - describing something you've experienced so often and never really realised... nice.

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