Essouria Morocco, January 20th 2014
Getting into the icy ocean waters is always hard, yet it’s almost always worth it. After the first numbing minute, it feels cool and refreshing. And there is catching the waves, and being propelled through the bubbling waters at what feels like super-sonic speeds. Like bing shot out of a cannon. When I arrived at Essouria the ocean reminded me of the powerful ocean I was used to seeing in San Francisco, not the wimpy east coast Atlantic. Here in this popular “hippy” destination was my rare chance to engage in my favorite sport, body surfing, yet there was still that resistance to getting in. There were other problems as well. Would my stuff be safe on the beach, how would I walk the 1 kilometer to the beach in bathing gear, and other issues. However I decided I must do it. It was on my list, it would make my day. So I got up early before it would be crowded at the beach. I started off down the main road of the town which was just a muddy dirt road. At 8am things were just getting set up and I cursed myself for not getting up earlier to watch. There was a man who was sculpting perfect cones out of spices that were almost 1 meter high. He was working on a cone of some orange spice, probably a curry powder and now he was applying some greenish covering, perhaps mint. He worked with the intensity of a sculpture. What a picture that would make. Yes, I was obsessed with pictures. But people her didn’t like you to take their pictures, yet, the temptation was great. A little farther along there was an old man selling some kind of porridge from a 100 litter giant vat. Old men were lined up to get it and it steamed Ashe poured it into the hand-sizes bowls. The temptation proved to great. I headed back the 50 meters to my nice hotel, climbed up to the third floor and got a handful of change. As I was walking back, a schoolboy noticed my webbed rubber shoes. It was the first time I had worn them on the trip. I could go swimming with them. The boy looked at them with amazement, like I was from Mars, and then looked at me. We smiled at each other, because I knew what he was thinking and he knew I knew. In my room i grabbed a handful of change and my i phone. First the porridge. I walked up to the cart and held up one finger. The wizened old man with the angular face and a bad right hand, just blinked in confusion. Another man came up and he poured a bowl. I spoke up, and the other man, a kind man, told the old man to give it to me. Against his better instincts he did. Then he motioned, did I want him to put the spices on? I did, just like the others. It looked like maybe a cumin powder and a kind of curry powder. I didn’t think it look promising, but it was……good. The kind man motioned for me to sit, and I did sit with the other old men. I was off the radar for now, just one of the guys. It was pleasant there sitting on the wooden bench in front of the small 2 story building, eating steaming porridge. It was excellent. A little more watery than I am used to, but delicious, and the strange spiced made it wonderful exotic. It was so good, I wanted another. I approached the old man and pointed to the empty cup. One more, I gestured. He didn’t understand again. Another kind man told him what I wanted. Some people didn’t operated on the non verbal channel at all. I watched other customers pay. It looked like 3 dirhams, about 24 cents a bowl. I relished my second cup, njoying the parade of locals making their way down the street. Finally I finished the second cup. I gave the empty cup to the old man and a 5 dirham coin and a 1 dirham coin. He took the money and gave back 1 dirham. He took my bowl and spoon and immediately washed it. I noticed that his crippled right hand was still good for washing , as he could hold with it and rotate the brush inside with it. I made my way over to the spice man. He was still at it.mwhatna picture it would make. I walked right up to him. ” picture?” he got very angry. “no. No picture. Picture No. No no picture”. “ok. Ok ok” I repeated . People here really didn’t like to have their picture taken. Not sure why. At least I had asked. But he didn’t seem to understand that I understood. Sheesh. I walked back towards my hotel, but the lazy night man had locked the door behind me. I could wake him up for the 10th time, but something caught me eye, across the road, a man was eating fresh made pankake looking bread with tea. That looked like a good thing to do while waiting for the door. Not healthy but good, with a pot of hot mint tea. I didn’t let the fact that I had just eaten 2 bowls of porridge stop me. I ordered one and sat down inside to watch. It was amazing to see how he operated. Different metal trays with the dough all ready to go. He just laid them on the metal stove which was all flat and let them rise. At their pick they puffed up, almost like a sphere, like little ufo’s. The waiter poured oil ( probably argon oil) and marmalade on them. It was hot and delicious. The mint tea was steaming and super sweet. The other men around me were pouring their tea from great heights, Moroccan style. I really wanted to take a picture of that bread, but after my bad experience I was afraid to ask. I didn’t want to ruin, the good feelings I had from this place. It’s so hard to capture the scene in a few words, the strange clothes, hood robes with pointed caps, the faces, like Arabian bandits, mysterious, foreboding, until they disarmingly smile. It’s all right. We are just unimaginably rich people to them. They must feel like they are Ina zoo, when we come in with our 600 dollar cameras and snap pictures of everything, their lives. Yet, I just wanted to remember, to keep it in place, because, it was all so different and unimaginable. I snuck a secret fast shoot. I looked across the road, they were all watching me. No one said anything though. The lazy watchman was up now. I went back to my room. Now it was time to get in the cold water, but wait first, let me right this story. Would I ever go in?