Tranquil Essouira

Stepping back into the turn of the 60s and 70s, inspiring musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones to write some of their most iconic records, is what awaits those visiting the picturesque, humble and historic city of Essouira.

For a long time populated heavily by ‘take is at it comes’ hippies, this small costal bohemian mecca still possesses the highly English literate local population who were ‘there’ 40 years ago and as a result, able to speak the language so proficiently and psychedelically.

Standing at one end of the medina on the main street, you can see through to the opposite end making this medina easily navigable, however it is complete with the country wide narrow and winding derbs filled with Essouira specific Aladdin’s cave uniquities.

We buy our freshly caught Atlantic fish straight from the side of the incoming boats on the harbour then take the 30 second stroll to two bystading makeshift cafes, complete with barbeue, built into the harbor wall (pictured). We hand over our plastic bag filled with 30 dirhams of still wet sardines and take a seat amongst the large beached blue boats and basking cats. The crisped steaming fish arrives a few minutes later with a small plate of spicy tomato’s and a pot of warming absinth tea, all for 20 dirhams, then after saying grace (‘bizmilee’) we taste the wonderous delights of life in lazy Essouira.

Evening in Essouira is a hive of quality international restaurants, night market food shoppers and impromptu jams raining out from countless music envious shops. Commence your evening with a roof top drink aloft the classy blue and white Tarros Terrace or try the restaurant Elizir for a delightful culinary expeience among the very tasteful flea market décor and forever obliging waiting staff.

For a day trip from Marrakech Essouira is the perfect all year round stop (although sometimes a little windy in the winter months) and is so much more than the world acclaimed Gnawa music festival this year in its 16th appearance. Your Marrakech-riad will be able to help you with travel arrangements.

Humble yet wonderful house of Fatima

Entering a Marrakshi household on a non descript Wednesday evening is an experience filled with warmth, welcome and sharing.

As the Henna artist and cook of the Henna Café in the north-west of La Medina, Fatima has been a practicing Nquasha (master of an artform) for over 26 years and a producer of local cuisine exquisites.

A small courtyard with scooter, clothes line and a picture of the atlas mountains greets you through a heavy almost un-openable metal door. We walk into the family room bordered by four benches which doubles as the marital bedroom. This is where the feast of people and supply of food will soon congregate.

As is common in Moroccan homes, the large ‘dining room’, again bordered by ornate benches, is separated off by a key reserved only for expensive crockery, unusual ornate items, boxes of henna paste and families all inviting grand sheep slaying gatherings.

Fatima brings us mint tea, as her husband tunes the tv into Russian news for some background noise. Questions pass back and forth discovering everything about each others customs, customs and when we will be married.

Cousins, nephews and friends join slowly as the normal midweek evening meal commences. Moroccan food aficionado, Fatima brings out two large tagine dishes one couscous with a range of different cuts of lamb, the other a beautifully presented potato, egg and tomato tagine. With family eating what looks like a black pudding of slow cooked jiblets and several strings of small intestine, no part of a Muslims precious sheep is snuffed at.

Apres food consists of my girlfriend having her hair cut by Fatima’s niece after a passing comment about not being able to find a female hairdresser in the medina, as I am entrenched in Fatimas’ son’s tour of his personally designed bedroom with over 1000 satellite channels and trouser press.

A completely unintrusive, welcoming and intruiging evening at what is the Moroccan hospitable mentality and something that can be experienced by all once you open your inhibitions and yes vocabulary to such an enchanting and giving population.

With bespoke and truly personal warmth of the managers/ staff  of Marrakech Riads, your stay in the heart of the Medina will be one that is truly cultural and never forgotten.