It was a beautiful sunny Friday afternoon and as I looked through the window, into the unrecognizable new town I was in, a new kind of excitement started to flourish in me. I had no idea where I was or how close I was to where I wanted to go. All I knew is that I had arrived to Essaouira, the gorgeously beautiful port city with the implacable ramparts and castle like walls that surrounded the Medina. I grabbed my backpacks and after trying to look up on the map of my phone in which direction I should walk I gave up and ended up asking people I saw walking by. I had previously read that the walk from the bus station to the Medina was quite short and I decided to avoid the taxi charge. As I continue guessing my way through the modern part of the city, I found myself lost in a labyrinth of streets and alleys and I ended up losing my sense of direction. I finally gave up and took a cab. The man driving the cab said some words to me in Arabic and I replied “Medina”. He drove for 3 blocks and we were there. I had come to realize sometimes I give up too soon. I made a mental promise to myself to try harder next time. Maybe it would have been easier if I was not carrying on my shoulders about 40 pounds of luggage. He dropped me off at one of the entrances of the Medina and I was not able to remember the mental map I had drawn in my head. The streets seemed so busy. There were lots of merchants and people walking wearing their traditional Moroccan clothes. I saw two girls that did not look like locals walking down the street in front of me, so I decided to approach them and asked them about the Hostel I was supposed to stay in. They directed me and invited me later to come see them to their hostel. They were in some kind of volunteering program. I continued walking and after losing my way a couple more times I finally made it to the hostel, which I chose because of the gorgeously beautiful rooftop view of the horizon. I envisioned myself watching the sunset over the entire Medina. It had to be a gorgeous view.
I checked in and I was shown my room. Inside, the hostel looked like an old mansion with wooden stairs and big windows in each room. My room had 6 beds and it was a mixed bedroom. Sooner than later I found myself chatting with a man who was a guest at the hostel. He was not happy with his experience in Morocco and he thought it was a difficult country. “People hassle all the time, I can not drink my coffee in peace, I can’t walk in peace, everywhere I go people want my money. It is horrible here, I can’t wait to go home. In fact, I changed my ticket and I am leaving later today” – The man said to me. I listened patiently and while he talked I was thinking – “It must be very difficult to be open minded”.
Being open minded to me was a game I wanted to play. I remember thinking about this at the Arlanda Airport back in Stockholm and I knew this trip was going to push me in every way. I remember imagining my life without Air conditioning, without different outfits to wear everyday, without the foods I was used to and interacting with people that had a different way of thinking than me. I was going to the most misunderstood continent in the western world and I thought, I better be open minded. But what does that really mean?
I briefly unpacked and got ready to take a walk around the Medina. Once outside, I could not help but getting overwhelmed with the atmosphere of the streets. Kids playing everywhere, merchants transporting their fruit and selling bresh baked desserts, butchers offering their meats and as I kept walking further down the streets, passing under the beautiful arched doors of the city, the sun started sinking down and I thought it was about time to go back to the hostel to watch my favorite time of the day : The sunset.
The sun started sinking over the millions of white houses in the horizon while the breeze touched my face gently but sometimes not so gently. The minutes passed by and the sun looked so round tinted by a light yellow color. “It looks different”- i thought. I had never seen such color of the sun. Every second that went by, I was mesmerized by the beauty of this portrait. I kept watching it hoping it would get imprinted in my mind forever so every time I revisit this memory, I could still remember the feeling of being on top of one of the roofs on beautiful and windy Essaouira, watching the sun sinking while I fall in love with the beauty of this world. I still remember this moment like it was yesterday and I will never forget it.
The morning came like a surprise and I hurried to start my day. I went downstairs almost running. I wanted to visit the Ramparts and did not want to miss out on anything. I did not really made friends at the hostel. There was a guy from Spain who had approached me several times inviting me out to drink but I politely declined every single one of his advancements. He did not understand. I had to keep saying no to him until he finally decided to leave me alone. I walked towards the other side of the city, closer to the ocean and I watched the seagulls steal fish from a bag hanging from a motorcycle that was parked. “Seagulls are very smart”- I thought, and I stood in silence, careful to not disturb their business. One of them would start walking towards the parked motorcycle slowly, nonchalant, looking everywhere around itself to make sure there was no one approaching and as soon as it got closed enough to the the red bag hanging, it would attack the bag abruptly making a hole and grabbing a fish and almost instantly flying away. Soon enough, there were more seagulls standing around as spectators, waiting in line to perform in the same way. They would fly away with the fish in their mouths while swallowing it and then come back to steal another one. It almost seemed like a show well played.
The port was full of blue wooden boats that I had seen in may photos, and one could observe the fishermen parking them by the pier and unloading their catch of the day to sell it to the people walking by. The seagulls were the number one customer of the fishermen. They would patiently wait for the unwanted parts f the fish being chopped and tossed to come after them.
The day was sunny but the breeze was strong. I walked towards the Scala the port and climbed up the tower towards the highest point. The wind felt even stronger and colder. I could see the seagulls getting swept away by the strong wind. The sea was shaken and I could see the waves breaking fearlessly on an island in ruins covered with guano that one could see in the horizon. The view was beautiful, breathtaking. I sat on one of the walls of the tower and closed my eyes. I can still remember the feeling of being there and the feeling of the wind blowing on my face, on my hair, and the image of the seagulls fighting to fly against it. The waves breaking by the Fortress walls and the absolute peaceful feeling of being somewhere new, by the ocean on a winter day of January.
I went to eat lunch by the entrance of the Medina and I sat to wait for my tajin while looking at the people passing by the restaurant. A few cats joined me as soon as my food arrived, and as usual, I shared it with them. “Cats are almost part of my routine” – I thought. They were probably the only constant on my changing days. I could be on a different city, on a different restaurant, but there was always a cat next to me, waiting for my food. I thought it was cute that I got to share my food with them. It made the meal time feel more like home in some way.
There was still ways until the sunset time and I saw that Scala the port closed at 5pm. Sunset time was at 6pm so I started to wander around the streets of the medina, looking at the many things the merchants from Essaouira had to offer. I saw beautiful Moroccan tile being sold that I wished I could have taken with me. Many beautiful carpets hang from the walls of the streets, being offered for 800-1000 dollars and many beauty stores offered the precious sought after Argan Oil in its two versions : Cosmetic and Edible. I was content I bought some from Fatima back in Taghazout. The houses and streets were of a white color with occasional mixes of earthy colors but mainly white. The doors were handcrafted beautifully and the parts where the city joined the Fortress walls had a specially different architecture. I had arrived to Skala de La Kasbah.
I walked by the line of brass canyons pointing to the ocean and the view was fantastic. There were many cats and people started to congregate more and more, climbing up the canyons and sitting on the top walls to admire the sun sinking into the ocean one more time. As the sun sunk, people started standing up and a guard walked sweeping people from the walls, letting them know the place had closed and they had to leave. I run towards the end of the canyons section and sat on the wall waiting patiently for the sun. The guard was still far from me. The sun continued sinking as I embraced the last hours of my stay in the port city. The sun did sink and the guard did come to ask me to leave. I obediently stood up and gave a last glance to the ocean before jumping off the wall. The next day I was walking the same streets one more time, with my backpacks, saying goodbye to the ocean. It was time to leave again but this time I was not leaving anyone behind.