I suppose that when Dror has full-sized tour groups, there are people in them who expect western-style food and service. So the hotel accommodations are mostly 4-star, and a lunch stop on the drive to Essaouira is planned for a fancy seafood restaurant with a French menu and a view of a little lagoon. Lunch was okay, the view was pleasant (and might have been spectacular on a sunny day), the bill was 4 times what a decent Moroccan meal would cost. This prompted me to explain to Dror that we would prefer more modest meals.
The name of the place is “The food-loving Spider,” or something like that. One of the specialties of the region is spider-crab, so perhaps that’s the source of the name.
My image of Essaouira was limited to its fame as a wind-surfing destination, so I thought we would be spending time at the beach. Not a bit of it. We are lodged in a nice traditional riad in the medina.It’s dark by the time we are ready to venture out. The main shopping street of the medina is nearby, so we stroll along (Maggie prefers a brisk power walk), acquiring some dried fruit and nuts for the road, and admiring the crafts—and olives!
The world-famous Gnawa music festival has just ended, but of course there are still musicians around. A little doorway for Cafe des Artes has a sign for live music, which promises something for both of us. Up two flights before we find musicians; I refuse to take a seat until they start to play. Soon the whole room is resonant with the intoxicating rhythm of Gnawa.
Meanwhile, we can admire the art, which covers not only the walls, but the table tops and even the ceiling.
The next morning is a cultural/historical tour of the old part of the city. No beach-surfing hippies in sight. But since the weather has been unusually cold, it’s just as well.
My sore leg is not up to the extended walking of the tour, so I sit it out at a cafe. Truth to tell, my feelings about spending hours on a tour to discuss historical sites is mixed. It’s inspiring to see how people have adapted to living in hot, dry climates with few resources (by U.S. standards). That’s something we might actually learn from as we adapt to global climate lurch. But to me, Morocco is foremost a place for enjoying the richness of the senses. Vivid colors and flavors, exciting music. History can wait.
So I have breakfast at a cafe, but I’m not limited to the cafe. Along the street I find some great pants, and while they are being tailored for me (included in the 2-for-$30 price) I find a native reed instrument, easy to play and lovely sound, and then see a striking painting on the sidewalk.
Maggie says if it’s painted on black velvet, it isn’t art. And it certainly is not traditional for Moroccan art! But I love this image, and buy it to bring home.