We hired a minivan and a driver for a day trip from Marrakesh to Essaouira. The highlight of the day came about 75% of the way, when our driver pulled over to the side of the road to see the “Goat Trees”. He told us (with tongue in cheek) that goats like to eat the nuts of the Argon tree and sometimes climb up in the trees to get to the nuts.
An entrepreneurial Goat Herder has created a nice little business by putting goats in a tree and allowing tourists to hold a baby goat to take pictures – all for tips. I asked our driver how they get the goats up in the trees. He just smiled – apparently getting a goat up a tree is a Moroccan state secret.
Shortly after the Goat Tree stop, we stopped again at a small factory where they process the nuts from Argon trees into food, oil and cosmetics. They have these ladies shelling and grinding the nuts the old fashioned way, but my cynical side tells me that there is a larger scale production somewhere else.
Finally, we stopped at this overlook to take photos of the Essaouira.
Essaouira was a Portugese settlement and port and so it has a little different feel than some of the other towns in Morocco. Also, Essaouira has a little bit of a hippie background including Jimi Hendrix.
We first visited the port, where we saw colorful blue fishing boats.
We then passed through this gate to enter the city.
We had a lunch of fresh seafood in one of the harbor restaurants. You pick your choice of fish and shellfish, they weigh what you choose, price it and then cook it up for you along with sides of bread, salad and French fries. Among the things we chose were shrimp that were still alive and moving about, and sea urchin. Below Kate and Natalie seem to be enjoying the sea urchin, Rebecca not so much.
After lunch we moved on through this main square to enter the medina.
At the other end of the Medina is the North Bastion where we stopped to look at the Atlantic and take pictures.
Back in Marrakesh
Very near our Riad, we were led by Mohammed into this very dark little room below street level. We were told this is the bakery that makes the bread we have been eating for breakfast and dinner each day. Sorry for the clarity on this photo, but it was so dark I had to use ISO 3200 to take this photo. You can see the loaves of bread in the oven behind the man on the left.
Henna: For special occasions women will decorate their hands and arms. Our daughters wanted to try this so our Riad arranged to have a woman from the neighborhood come to our Riad.
The color is applied using a syringe. The color is black when applied and after it dries, the black part becomes crusty and falls off, and the remaining color is orange. The color remains for about 10 days, slowing fading each day.
We had such a delightful (and inexpensive) lunch at this little restaurant near our Riad, that we returned for a second lunch on another day.
The Majorelle Garden (Jardin Majorelle)
From Fodor’s Morocco: “The Jardin Majorelle was created by the French painter Louis Majorelle, who lived in Marrakesh between 1922 and 1962. It then passed into the hands of another Marrakesh lover, the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurant.”
From Fodor’s Morocco: “Don’t leave the city without visiting Chez Ali, a Vegas-meets-Marrakesh experience. After your multi-course dinner in breezy tents, the show begins. Featuring hundreds of performers and dozens of horses, this singing-and-dancing extravaganza is a celebration of traditional culture. It’s somewhat cheesy but very enjoyable. ”
This made for tourists show reminded me of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. A slickly packaged presentation of the Moroccan culture – even if it didn’t feel entirely authentic.
Next up: Over the Atlas and into the Sahara.