After pulling ourselves together, we strolled downstairs for breakfast in the dining area. Our gracious host Yusuf served us crepes, chocolatines, and good strong coffee, as well as fresh squeezed orange juice. Suitably fortified, it was off to the ramparts and the fishing wharf.
The boats had only just come in, and the fishermen were busy selling the catch of the day: eels, stingrays, huge crabs, even a shark. Little silver sardines were immediately salted to help preserve them. Blue is the color for fishing boats, apparently. Many of them were being dragged to dry dock for repairs.
There were lots of women in the market area, alone or in pairs, but only female tourists in the area of the fishing boats, with the exception of one or two crones selling their catch. As a female who clearly wasn’t local, I didn’t feel particularly welcome. I wasn’t miserably uncomfortable, but I wasn’t at ease, either. By process of elimination, I discovered that it’s okay to smile at babies and their mothers, little children (but then they might try to talk you out of a few dirhams,) and shopkeepers of any age or gender. But the older guys are a tough crowd to warm up.
The medina, the market area, is surrounded by high walls for protection, as invasion by sea was commonplace in the old days. You can get some great views of the harbor from the top of the walls. For an authentic feel for things, you can shimmy into a guard towers and peer through the narrow little slits.
After a couple hours of walking, we stopped for lunch at an outdoor cafe. The weather has been quite lovely – we were pleasantly surprised by the warm temperatures and sunshine. As we ate, we were entertained By strolling musicians, gymnasts, and beggars, all of whom politely requested a few dirhams (10 dirhams = $1.) We enjoyed shrimp salad with avocado, pizza fruit di mare, and 2 bottles of water for $12 at La Mouette D’Essaouira.
More strolling, and a little shopping: hand carved boxes of Thuya wood, paintings by Ezba the young literature graduate, and a painting of the symbol of Fatima plus Berber folk symbols, done on cow skin, by a young man in a San Francisco 49er’s hat.
Up five flights to have mint tea on a terrace overlooking the water. These tall, narrow buildings are great for developing your thigh muscles! The view from the top was certainly worth the exertion.
The younger generation is very open to conversation. A young artist in a cooperative gallery explained that his fellow painters have only recently begun painting humans and animals, a practice that is forbidden by Muslim law. According to this young man, the rigidity of the former regime is easing under the rule of the new king. Still, he acknowledged, locals probably wouldn’t buy his work.
After a rather mediocre dinner, we bought some delicious little pastries, and strolled back to Les Matins Bleus for coffee. That’s when things went horribly wrong. As a hardcore coffee drinker, I am virtually immune to caffeine. This stuff, however, packed such a wallop that both Craig and I were awake well past 1 am. I have no idea what was in that cup, but it was not a species of coffee I’d ever met before. From now on, it’s mint tea at bedtime.