Tom and I headed off on an Eco tour of the surrounding forest and beach south of Essaouira with a tour group. Twelve tourists, 10 French speaking all from France and Tom and me with a repertoire of 10 perhaps 12 French words between us. The Eco tour guide assured us he would translate and he did.
There was much excitement among the French ladies and the cause my hat!! Yes my haute couture hat had impressed the French ladies. Oo la la they wanted to know where I purchased it. “In Morocco?” they asked and when I said no they asked if I would sell it to them. Me, a fashion statement, that is about as ridiculous as me giving up chocolate. I know they were not impressed with the rest of my fashion attire but I do know I wore the most sensible and practical shoes for the day although they were not going to admit that.
Our first stop was the Argan tree forest. Bedraggled and struggling against the goats and camels who eat the fruit of the tree, the farmers who destroy huge swaths of forest for farming and developers who replace the trees with cement cube like buildings. The forest area has shrunk by half over the last 100 years. It is estimated 6000 hectares are destroyed a year. The goats climb the trees to get to the fruit and in doing so destroy the bark and sadly the trees suffer. Tourists love to photograph the goats in the trees so on the tourist routes some poor goats are placed in trees all day on little platforms so the tourist can photograph them for a price.
The oil from the fruit’s nut is used in cosmetics and there are claims it does wonders for skin and hair. The women remove the fruit and then crack the nutshell open and inside are 2 small almond shaped nuts. These nuts are ground down and the oil from the nut provides hair and skin with nutrients. The nuts are roasted first if the oil obtained from them is to be used for cooking. It is also eaten as oil much like olive oil only with a slightly nutty flavor and a lot more expensive.
The saddest part of travel is to witness the destruction of the planet around the world. We walked miles and miles along a remote beach, the angry sea crashing onto the shore, constantly spewing back the rubbish we have dumped into the oceans. Returning to us the debris of mankind.
Remember in years past when we explored the beaches we found seashells and not discarded plastic bottles and bags, we found seaweed and not tangled fishing nets and ropes, we found starfish and crabs and not soggy washed up sandals and tires. No matter how far one walks from urbanization one cannot escape the rubbish man dumps into the oceans around the world. The sea continues to constantly vomit it back onto the beaches. Pristine beaches will soon be a thing of the past.
We stopped at a little stream where a small cascade of water tumbled over the rocks. At the top of the cascade women did their washing. We headed for tea with a Berber family. We entered the little cement cube like buildings, with the solar panels on the roof along with the satellite dish. A little boy was fixing his bicycle and an old man with his handmade tire sandals watched the “tourists.” A Berber woman served us sweet tea with mint in little glasses as we sat around small tables all seated on the floor. The floor was covered with rugs and cushions, a clock hung on the wall with the incorrect time along with family photos and plastic flowers. A small TV stood in the corner.
Bread was served along with 4 little bowls, each with a dipping for the bread. There were bowls of argan oil, olive oil, honey and amlou. Freshly baked bread was torn into pieces and we dipped our bread into the bowls. Amlou is the favorite, a sweet nutty tasting sauce made of argan oil, crushed almonds made into a paste and honey and sugar. Delicious.
As we walked through the countryside we passed men ploughing the fields with donkeys and wooden ploughs, women picked the crop in the fields and little children led heavily laden donkeys along the rocky pathway.
Back in Essaouira Tom and I packed, getting to leave this little fishing village and head back to Rabat and then Canada.
Essaouira was kind to us with perfect winter weather, sunny skies with a breeze off the ocean. Essaouira is a tourist town with its huge waves attracting surfers, its wind attracting wind surfers, a quaint medina and an intriguing souk to explore. Hundreds of tourists arrived daily over the Christmas season and I watched the dance between the tourists and the guides and vendors over the weeks a fascinating dance.
Tom and I said good-bye to Essaouira and to all the friends we made. I thank you all for the kindness shown and I am sorry I made such a lousy student of Arabic I know you all tried hard to get me to say it right.