Wednesday 30 September 2009

Moroccan round trip almost complete (Day 21)

Since we liked Essaouira so much, departing hour definitely came way too early. Before we joined our Moroccan travel circle where it begun (that's in Casablanca), we still had some time left to soak in the relaxed atmosphere of Essaouira.

No matter what sort of goods you might be looking for, in Morocco it is quite possible to find it all in one shop. On some occasions you might try on a new pair of shoes and in the meanwhile buy meat for dinner. You could get some blood on your new shoes in the process, but that doesn't really matter. You're in Morocco, remember?

During our last morning in Essaouira we walked by the countless cannons lined up on city walls once again and treated ourselves with another delicious seafood meal. The last week in Morocco went by, strongly tasting of fish. We had a seafood meal at least once a day. Most of the people I know would have had enough of it much sooner, but we just couldn't resist it. It was always as fresh as it could be and usually also very delicious. At some occasions some of the fish we chose from, were still moving.

When we finally walked to the bus station, we noticed there was something wrong with one of the tires on our bus. Since we were a bit early, we figured out they would fix it in time.

Scheduled departure time got closer with every minute, but a few of the employees from the bus station just couldn't decide how to handle the situation. After some half an hour of walking around the bus and discussing the situation, it seemed something was happening at last. To my amusement I realized they all went away just to get some coffee.
When they finally got back they tried a few new things. By then most of the passengers were quite amused with the show. Obviously nobody was in a real hurry.
At last the bus driver decided that going to a nearby gas station would be the right thing to do. He was back in 15 minutes and we were ready to go. I wasn't so sure at the time, but fortunately the tire lasted all the way to Casablanca.

In Casablanca we had lots of time to spend the remaining Dirhams. It wasn't a hard task, since we didn't have all that many left.
We met some more interesting people while hanging around the city center. The most interesting were father and son from Saudi Arabia. They were in Casablanca on a business trip and were arranging some details regarding sports clothes manufacturing. They were setting up a production of various copied trademark clothes. For me the most amusing dirty detail was sowing labels "Made in China" onto the products. Obviously, various products are not being copied only in the Far East. There are others (Moroccans in this case), who copy the Chinese.
Actually when you think of it, Nike, Adidas and such products are all made in China. And to make a perfect copy, the label also has to look as genuine as possible.

After an illuminating chat with the two Saudis, it was time to catch a train to the airport. Moroccan trains are quite good - they could easily be compared to European standards. Unfortunately due to Atlas mountain range, stretching over a considerable part of Morocco and rising over 4.000 meters above sea level, the railroad network does not cover a very large part of the country. That is why we did most of our traveling by bus.

Later that same night we boarded our MyAir flight to Venice, Italy. Everything went smooth and in the morning we were met by M's sister, who took us home to Slovenia.

We really enjoyed this three week Moroccan adventure of ours, but it is nice to be home again.


Tuesday 15 September 2009

Mogador - The City of Wind (Day 20)

"The city of Mogador" - it sounds like a fairytale place from Tolkien's Lord of the rings, doesn't it?

Although it really looks like a city straight from a fantasy book, Essaouira is an easily reachable destination. It is one of top 5 Moroccan destinations and a go-to place for wind and kite surfers. Mogador is an old name given by the Portuguese who occupied the city in the 16th century. Some remains of their influence are still visible today.

Even if one could not feel the winds that are blowing literary all the time (hence the name "City of wind"), it would be easy to figure it out from countless seagulls effortlessly gliding over the city. Every time I passed by the fishing port area, I was just waiting to get crapped on.
Surprisingly even after countless photo sessions in the danger zone, I escaped unharmed.

Essaouira is easily one of the top five most photogenic cities in Morocco. Despite being quite small, it has loads of interesting streets and corners.

Skala de la Kasbah - a section of city's 18th-century walls, surrounding UNESCO World Heritage medina, is just one such example. Musée Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah, the beach, city souks and port are also places worth visiting.

Among everything else, Essaouira is also a city of music. Once a year Essaouira gnaoua music festival is held here. It usually takes place in June and attracts people from all over the world. There are also many gnaoua (also spelled gnawa) bands performing in Essaouira every day. Locals say gnaoua music is a genuine African mix of music influences and a link to the past.

Although we didn't catch the festival, we were lucky enough to participate in a relaxed music session with a local band. A local guy invited us to participate in an evening session of their gnaoua band. It was quite interesting to see them in action, playing traditional Moroccan instruments.
Locals were quite amused when I asked a member of the band if there are many music schools in Morocco. He just couldn't understand the concept of learning music in school. He said music is something you learn as you go - pick up an instrument and try to play. You simply feel it or you don't.

The atmosphere was really relaxed, with a strong scent of green in the air. Something tells me that smoking hashish is an important part of Moroccan music. That evening it felt almost like the fifth member of the band.

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