Breezing north up the Atlantic coast
The sun glistening sea welcomed us warmly as we approached the coastal village of Sidi Kaouki – one of Michel’s favourite getaways. The rental car had performed well down the three hour stretch of road which ran a straight line from Marrakech to Essaouira – not once did it fall asleep! We wasted no time in going to the beach – just in time to see the sun set as it sank deeper into the crashing waves of the Atlantic. The surrounding rock pools reflected the final glimmers of light as I strolled aimlessly into dusk reflecting on recent thoughts in my usual critical way.
That evening we made our way back to the beautiful town of Essaouira to dine at Eliza – a popular restaurant characterised by its eclectic décor, and delicious, locally sourced food. As we walked along the cobbled stone floor; passing under the gleaming clock tower; navigating our way through passageways of softly lit, white washed buildings; it felt very different to the rest of Morocco – more like a French coastal town – a common association so I’m told. I had a really special night at Eliza enjoying the most succulent cut of beef over the perfect accompaniment of both red wine and good conversation – empty doggy bags on departure are always a good sign!
Our two days in Sidi Kaouki passed in a breeze – quite literally! It was no longer than a few days after returning to Marrakech that I travelled back to my new found love of Essaouira to continue my journey north along Morocco’s Atlantic coast. After two months of budgeting I decided to treat myself to a few nights of dining in Essaouira’s top restaurants which included of course a return to Eliza, and an evening in Sirocco – where I enjoyed the sounds of live reggae covers to various classics. My favourite part of Essaouira were the ramparts which looked out to the Atlantic – there was something intriguing about watching the powerful waves crash violently into the rocks surrounding the outer walls, knowing I was safe from its turbulent rage. The evening sunsets left a magnificent pink aura in the night sky – apparently normal for that time of year according to the local “Happy Cake” vendor.
Leaving Essaouira turned out to be a bit crazy – nothing new there! I arrived at the bus station to see a bus I could have taken pulling away. “Quick, Quick, Come with me!” A man shouted as he hailed a taxi in Arabic. I usually avoid such situation but my curiosity led me on a wild goose chase as the taxi chased the quickly departing bus. A few minutes later and the taxi had successfully managed to flash the bus to a stop; I tipped him and boarded the bus closely followed by the other guy who demanded payment for his help – typical. The bus was full of locals who all stared and laughed as the ticket boy overcharged me as the “helper” worked in his commission. You’ve heard my rant on the disorder of local bus travel so you can work the rest out for yourself.
After Essaouira I stayed in Oualidia which was smaller, and less touristic. I spent most of my time walking on the beach, exploring the caves and old fishing lodges. I soon got talking with a local fisherman who lived in a man-made cave overlooking the sea, and over a few glasses of Moroccan tea he told me he was also a masseur so I let him give me a back massage with hot rocks – the whole experience was a bit strange but I just did it anyway – typical me. For two of the three nights I was there I had dinner on the beach, after eventually giving in to one of the numerous requests from guys on motorbikes who rode around selling fish – I ended up settling for the guy with the biggest smile. After we agreed on a price, he went about making a small fire on the beach where he prepared and cooked a plate of fresh fish and vegetables. I devoured my feast on a big mat under a parasol as the evening sun dropped once again leaving the most incredible colours in the sky – if only my camera was working! I had a great connection with the fisherman in Oualidia, and as such I was rewarded with a very special experience.
The next stop was El Jadida as I travelled further up the Atlantic coast towards Casablanca. I didn’t really enjoy my time in El Jadida, it was a lot bigger than Oualidia, and it just felt run down and tacky in comparison. The highlight of my time was before I left on the bus to Casablanca where I challenged the local man sitting next to me to a game of Dama. He enthusiastically accepted leading us into a competition which caught the interests of others in the café as they argued over the next best move. It was these types of experiences – interacting with local people – that I cherished most about my time in Morocco.
My final stop on a two and a half month trip around Morocco was Casablanca – Morocco’s great metropolitan city. The diversity between rich and poor was more evident here than anywhere else as the Westernised city grew extensively around the crumbling walls of the old medina. I was really impressed with Casablanca; it was just like a perfect summer’s evening, as I strolled through the streets admiring the many beautiful buildings which run parallel to Mohammed V. As the evening drew to a close I made my way back to the hotel – it didn’t really feel safe at night, and I had an early start in the morning. What followed was the worst night’s sleep in my whole life. It must have looked like a murder scene to the cleaners as I had splatted way over thirty mosquitos, leaving big, long blood stains on the walls. I never did manage to kill them all, so I was kept awake all night by buzzing, and in the morning I noticed they had bit me all over my face! “What an end to the trip” I thought. It really emphasises further the motto “love it one day, hate it the next” which explains how I’ve felt from a day to day basis as I’ve travelled around Morocco.
Little did you all know but I secretly booked a flight to Paris whilst in Marrakech. My last visit to Paris was at the beginning of my trip where I remember rushing for the T.G.V in a frenzied mess. It was definitely time for me to return to mix amongst the Parisians as I work towards becoming more French – I just need a French girlfriend now, Inshallah!
À bientot mes amis!
Backpackers Tips and Advice
Both Eliza and Sirocco are really great places to treat yourself with mains starting from 60dh. Sirocco has live music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday which I recommend. You can eat cheap, fresh fish at the fish stalls – it’s like a slimmed down version of Jemma El Fna, don’t forget to haggle!
Eating fresh fish on the beach was an awesome experience. I would highly recommend Moula who was my chef – he was brilliant. Give him a call with a date and time 0669 306537 – prices start from 60dh.
There is a Maison d’hote just up from the main road – I paid 115dh after haggling. You can watch English films at night on the T.V, it’s by the internet café, but a ten minute walk down to the beach. Give Bouchaib a text and he will pick you up on the main road 0662 071748.
Walk down the hill from the main road and you will arrive at the beach after ten or so minutes. If you walk along the beach to the left you will come across man-made caves, and natural caves within the cliff faces.
For El Jadida
Hotel Bordeaux was nice, and probably the best budget option – trust me, I checked many others.
If you enjoy peace and tranquillity spend more time in Oualidia than anywhere else. Essaouira is beautiful but more touristic than Oualidia.
If you’re ready to leave Morocco, EasyJet offer cheap flights to many locations in Europe, be sure to check them before anyone else.