I’d initially opted to skip visiting this little beach/port town about an hour and half out of the Marrakech medina but I’d heard so much about its beauty and peacefulness that I added it into the agenda for a day trip. When I first arrived to Essaouira I walked straight towards the sea but as I got closer to the water, I grew increasingly anxious. Dozens of seagulls swarmed over my head (and I DO NOT rock with seagulls). The smell of dead fish seeped into my nose. My eyes remained glued to the ground as I played hopscotch with pigeon poop and muddy salt-water puddles wearing new Zara silver-metallic heels no less. “Maybe I should have stuck to my original agenda of not coming here…” I quickly thought. Just as quickly, I realized how wrong I was. Before the end of my trip, I had truly fallen in love with this charming town and its genuine people.
While the seaport wasn’t my favorite area (hey, it never is no matter where in the world I am), once I walked toward the town center I started to feel more comfortable and in my element. Little shops painted in blue, yellow and white, a perfect parallel to the landscape of the sky, sun and clouds, lined the streets. Just like in Marrakech, plenty of souvenir stalls flanked the streets but there was much less haggling and yelling like in the busy marketplace of the bigger city. I stopped at boutiques here and there, picking up souvenirs and continued perusing to see what or whom I could find. Before long, I heard “we dem boyz” blasting from a local shop. I looked in the window and laughed to find a young Moroccan guy jamming out- but to the Moroccan version of the song. He, who I later found out was named Mostafa, saw me and invited me in and we watched the video together, laughing. I felt comfortable enough to ask him for a suggestion for lunch (without being hassled about money after showing me to a cafe) and he happily took me around the corner to a local spot where I had the most amazing tajine of fresh fish and vegetables and, of course, mint tea.
From then on, the rest of my day was relaxed and cool. I met some other natives, all very nice people, who were interested to know where I was from and complimented me on my “look.” I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “nice color!” since I’ve been here regarding my turquoise hair. But unlike Marrakech where many times those compliments led to haggling, here in Essaouira it was simply a sincere remark and desire to understand who this turquoise-haired woman was. By the end of the trip, I knew that I must return- to meet again with my new friends and take Mostafa up on his offer for a surfing lesson. Maybe, next time I can appreciate the sea much more.
So, about these ‘tree goats’…. in Morocco, in the Argan oil region grows the coveted ‘Argania’ trees. The goats love to eat its fruit and will go so far as to hop onto the branches of the tree for their meal. As you can see, the goats will swarm in hoards and perch on the same tree to eat the fruit crop. Local farmers accept this because actually, the goats help the cultivation of oil. After they eat and ‘pass’ their food, the poop is actually pressed to create the famous Argan oil. However, as more farmers have brought the goats to their land to help make this oil, it unfortunately has caused a decline in the Argan trees.