Essaouiera and the Atlantic Coast

We left Merzouga and the Saharra on June 2nd and started our journey to Essaouiera on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco.  We took a little bit different route from Merzouga to Ouarzazate than we took on our way there.  This time we went through the Draa valley, which was really beautiful, but the road was terrible with potholes that threatened to swallow the whole car.  We also had the adventure of getting a flat tire and having to change it in the middle of the desert.  In Merzouga we met a couple on our camel trek who caught a ride with us to Ouarzazate. David from Sweden and Greta from Denmark.  They also continued on with us to Essouiera, and then on to Casablanca as well. It was fun to meet some new friends and to have them along with us for the ride.

Essouiera is a nice beach town and fishing village on the Atlantic Coast.  We stayed there for 3 nights, which was nice since we were pretty exhausted from all of the driving, camel riding, etc from the previous few days.  Our first day in Essouiera, we took it pretty easy, sleeping in and going for a long walk on the beach.  The beach was nice although very very windy.  This is what makes it a destination for kite boarders who were fun to watch while we walked.  Our second day we drove South to the Amal women’s co-operative that makes and sells Argan oil. The Argan tree is native to this part of Morocco and it’s fruit is used to make an oil that is similar to olive oil, but with a more distinctive, nutty flavor. The process of extracting the seeds from the fruit is very labor intensive as it requires removing the outer shell and then cracking the hard nut inside to remove the seeds.  This is all done by hand by the women here and we were able to go inside and see the whole process including the fruit drying in the sun, the women extracting the seeds, and the equipment that they use to produce the oil.  On the way back we saw and Argan tree that was full of goats that had climbed up in the branches to eat the fruits I’m assuming.  It was quite a sight.  Also on our way back we turned off of the main road and followed a sign for a beach.  This brought us to a small fishing village with a really nice beach with interesting rock formations and tide pools that was thankfully not windy and did not have very many people.  We got there about the time the fisherman were returning and got to watch them pull the boats out of the water with a tractor. This tiny village also had a fish processing facility that, according to the sign, was financed by the American People.  It was refreshing to see a sign of our country doing some good in this small corner of the Muslim world.  I can’t help but think that seeing more of this kind of thing would do more to stop terrorism than all of the drone strikes and the “war on terror” ever will.  In the evening we explored the Medina a bit and had dinner at the fish market there.  This was a really interesting experience and the food was great.  we showed up there, picked out some fresh fish from one of the sellers (shrimp, a couple of sardines, and some bigger fish that I’m not sure of the species), and then took it up the grill where they rubbed it with olive oil, added some spices, and then cooked it right there for us.  We also got salad, olives, and fries all for a decent price.  The fish was super fresh having been caught in Essouiera that day, very tasty, and the cooks were really nice and helpful in navigating the whole process.  I definitely recommend this if you’re in Essouiera.

The next day we got up and made the 4 hour drive to Casablanca to get on our plane to Instanbul at 6:00 PM.  We really enjoyed our time in Morocco.  The people and culture are warm, friendly, and kind once you learn to steer clear of the scammers and the landscapes are incredibly beautiful and unique. It was eye-opening to see a Muslim country and culture first-hand since there are so many misconceptions about it in our own country.   I’ve learned to understand and appreciate the differences in Islamic culture from our own, but also that those differences don’t need to stand in the way of people showing kindness, decency, and respect to one another as the people of Morocco have shown to us.  Morocco has certainly left it’s mark on me and I’ll carry the experience with me for the rest of my life.

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