We found Essaouira beach a wonderful escape from the madness of the souk, the sands stretching endlessly by the side of the chill Atlantic. Occasionally we were bothered by young men selling a variety of cakes, but it was not the kind of hassle you get on the beaches of Goa, where they want to perform all kinds intimate services, from ear cleansing to vigorous massage. Maybe those kinds of things were available in the peak season; but now we were able to lie back on the splendid soft sand, mostly undisturbed.
It was probably the paranoia of a tourist, but I always felt like we were being watched in the market areas, sized-up as potential victims for some surprise scam. Jess kept telling me to relax, because she was incredibly laid-back during daylight hours – it was only after dark that her imagination got going.
She’d already bought several small wooden objects, including a couple of camels, a donkey, and a special box from which a snake miraculously appeared. I have never had any interest in shopping, spending most of the time pacing up and down outside such outlets, while Jess examines everything in minute detail for what seemed like hours in the cavern-like interiors. She was fairly hot with the bartering too, which I also couldn’t be bothered with after a lifetime of mostly fixed prices in England.
I would always prefer just sitting or lying on the beach, watching fishing boats, children playing football, camel rides in the distance, local women covered from head to toe while a few tourists pranced about virtually naked. The sea was not really suitable for bathing, but windsurfing or kitesurfing appeared to be quite popular amongst more affluent local men and the young chaps newly-arrived from Europe.
At times you could almost forget being in a Muslim country, until the call to prayer drowned the cries of seagulls or shouts of children as a goal was scored.
‘Do you fancy the museum later ?’ Jess asked.
‘I’m more interested in something to eat and drink. Do you know what the three strands of Moroccan cuisine are ?’
‘I expect you’re going to enlighten me.’
‘Tagine dishes, couscous, and the Laughing Cow cheese triangles.’
‘It’s more or less what we’ve had so far.’
‘Anyway, getting back to the museum – they’ve got jewellery, costumes, weapons, musical instruments and carpets.’
‘I bet it’s not so good as the Castle Museum in York.’
‘Try forgetting England for a few days.’
‘I will if you buy me some nice coffee and a sweet croissant.’
‘A chance to practice my French, I suppose.’