I only have to sniff the jar of tagine mix spices in the kitchen at home to be instantly transported back to the dark, covered market in Taroudannt, where we were taken by an apparently helpful young man, who only guided us to his father’s stall to extract large amounts of money in exchange for a few stale spices and a small block of sandalwood.
That was a few days after we left Essaouira, and it should have perhaps served as a mild warning of how things can unexpectedly go awry in somewhere like Morocco. Inevitably, they will try to get the better of you in the bartering process, and almost always succeed, but to be guided through the alleys of a town for the sole purpose of fraud is another matter.
There was still plenty of time before that upsetting episode to savour the refreshing atmosphere of Essaouira, though it did really stink in the area of the harbour, which was possibly also an outlet for any effluent emerging from all the chaotic human and animal activity behind the city walls.
Of course we had a map of the fairly small town, but it was just so completely different from the neat street patterns of England, or even America, where a simple grid arrangement is used.
‘I’m not going out after dark’ Jess said at first.
‘But we have to go outside to get an evening meal.’
‘Not if we buy chocolate in the day time.’
‘Now you’re just being ridiculous.’
‘That’s easy for you to say, you’re not an attractive, pale-skinned English woman !’
‘I can’t deny you’re attractive.’
I remember pulling her close, and trying to offer some reassurance.
‘It’s probably much safer than Leeds or Manchester out there.’
‘We’re bound to get lost.’
‘True, but when that happens we’ll just head in the direction of the smelly harbour with all those noisy gulls.’
For some reason this dubious logic seemed to improve her mood, though the truth was that without some kind of satellite navigation device we’d possibly have to doss down in a filthy alley overnight.