Posted: 1/6/2007


   I hope you all can keep a secret for a while, at least until I borrow some money to buy some property, but I want to let you know about the next Copacabana, St. Tropez or Waikiki. Its called Essaouira, on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco, three hours west of Marrakesh by road, and north of Agadir, the big resort where lots of private and government money was poured into after a disasterous earthquake 50 years ago.

   Essaouira has a small, underused airport, unlike the big one at Agadir, but it has lots of pluses. Its an 18th Century town enclosed by a wall that look much older, and was built by Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah with the help of French architect Theodore Cornut. For a long time it was the only Moroccan port south of Tangier open to European traders, so thrived. Now it has a successful artist colony with many galleries, souks with thuya wood workshops, spices, colourful clothes, jewelry and carpets and lots of cafes,and a port with pleasure craft and sardine boats. It is pollution free with Norfolk pines, a neat promenade or cornich with wavy tiles similar to Copacabana, neat and clean toilets and restaurants along the 2 mile beach, with huge waves and the title Wind City, Afrika, with lots of wind surfing enthusiasts. There were a couple of impromtu soccer matches on the beach, and at weekends an organized league.

   The bay is a dramatic sweep from the fort to Cap Sim, and a wide range of affordable accommodation, though as yet no 5 star resorts, so FIFA Executive rif-raf may not be ready to visit. In the bay are the Iles Purpuraires, named from the Roman Imperial cloth manufactured there from murex shellfish.  Sir Francis Drake visited in 1577 but its now a nature reserve for the Eleonoras falcon  In 1952 Orson Welles came and financed, produced and starred in his movie Othello. 50 years later King Mohammed VI, who was then still a prince, attended the open air showing of the restored movie  in town.  

   On the way into town from Marrakesh in a shared taxi, cost 5 dollars each, I passed a grove of Argon trees, from which oil for cooking is produced. In the trees were 4-5 goats, who climb the trees for the succulent leaves and the nuts.  At the southern end of the Essaouira beach I found Said with his camels. I bargained a half day ride which was a mixture of Chariots of Fire and Lawrence of Arabia takes Aqaba. My camel was called Max and was the gentlest camel I have ever known. First we went strolling along the surf, then into the sand dunes and forded across the Oued Ksob, a river bed full of egrets and finches, up past the ruined fort Bordj el Berod. We came upon the Berber village of Diabet and stopped for lunch at a hole-in-the-wall called Cafe Hendrix, with 2 tables, while Max rolled in the sand for a camel bath. The proprietor had a Tanjit of lamb and vegetables with olives and herbs cooking over hot ash, so I had a dish followed by my favourite drink, Berber whisky- mint tea, plus a loaf of delicious rough Moroccan bread and some tiny biscuits. The Berbers still speak the Tashelhait language.

It was in this village a generation ago that a hippie colony developed with celebrity visiters such as Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens. The latter is still popular because he converted to Islam. It also inspired Henrix,s Axis Bold as Love Album.  Back to Marrakesh I saved a little money by taking one of half a dozen competing bus lines for  under 3 dollars- mine was called HAHA Lines.