2008 Morocco Tour Group Journal

Day 12    Nov. 21, 2008 Assaouera - Marrakesh Submitted by   Harry & Carol Ries rica79@gcpower.net

The day in Essaouira began like so many others on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco, warm and sunny. The trade winds that bring the windsurfers and kite boarders would not come until later in the day. We spent the morning wandering through the medina saying good-bye to the quaint old town that had been our home for two days. Good-bye, too, to the many merchants who vied aggressively for our dirhams, and to the hippies who wandered the streets of the town with the ghost of Jimi Hendrix lost in a time warp, still searching for the perfect nirvana and the perfect high. It was not hard to imagine that in Essaouira they had found both. At noon we met for lunch at Restaurant Le Mogadorien, and ate a tasty meal of tomato and green pepper salad and Kofte Tajin. After lunch we boarded the bus for the three hour drive to Marrakech, a journey once again through the varying landscapes of Morocco. 

We stopped at a women’s co-op where the women ground the oil from the seeds of the Argan tree and refined the oil to make various products, from cosmetics to soap to oils used to flavor food. The Argan tree is indigenous to North Africa and has a variety of uses. Goats use it for food, climbing the branches in search of its leaves and fruit – a symbiotic relationship that benefits both plant and animal. The hard wood is used to make charcoal. Vitamin-rich oil is extracted from the seed kernels and used for cosmetics. The oil is also used medicinally and used in food to bring out the flavor of salads and tajines. It is also used as fuel for lamp oils. I was even told that Argan oil rubbed onto my head would help grow hair. I’m still waiting.We watched as the women showed us the various stages of Argan oil production. After we all purchased the Argan oil product that we could not live without, we continued the journey to Marrakech. 

Enroute we came upon a man plowing his field with a camel and a donkey. The camel provided the power and the donkey provided the coordination to assist the camel in turning around at the end of a row. The farmer was kind enough (with the aid of a few dirhams) to allow us to photograph this ancient process.

After passing manicured vineyards where grapes are grown for the production of Moroccan white wine, we arrive in Marrakech just before 6:00 pm, and, after a brief respite, we head to the Place Jemaa el-Fna, the famous square in the old town where buskers with monkeys, snakes, and tarot cards waited for a chance to separate tourists from a few dirhams. Musicians, surrounded by crowds, played throughout the square. The square is also filled with open-air restaurants that battle for the taste buds of the passers by. As the evening progresses the square turns into a chaotic mass of humanity, filled with sounds of all description and the smoke and smells from grilling meat and other foods and spices. The crowds move chaotically yet rhythmically to the sounds of the many beating drums that fill the air. One can find virtually anything in the square and the souks of Marrakech. The square is an enormous open-air theater that replays each and every night.

We end the night on the terrace of Glacier Café overlooking the square. We are enthralled by the sea of humanity below, and glad, for the moment, to be above it and the sensory overload that is the medina of Marrakech.


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