Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Some Very Belated Travel Notes: The Rest of Morocco

I kind of forgot about this blog until a few people recently asked me what happened to it. So, here I am again! I'm settled in Taiwan now, but I guess I still qualify as a "little tourist" here. When do you stop becoming a tourist and become an actual local? Does that ever happen?

So there's lots I don't want to forget about the rest of my trip to Morocco, so here it is for the record:

Essaouira, Essaouira, Essaouira!
Whenever we were in bus stations, we'd always hear the drivers yelling "Essaouira, Essaouira, Essaouira!" We figured it was a popular tourist destination, so, as two tourists, we thought it would be appropriate to check it out with the two extra days we had left before my flight out of Casablanca.

Some things of note about our stay here:
1. Arrived super late without any idea where to stay. Stalked by hoards of hotel salesmen. So glad that part of my life is over now. I have a home! Anyway, we settled in a hostel that I swear was haunted. There was some questionable substance on the ground that the manager assured us was not blood. One of the beds was falling a part. Very irritable dog next door yapping all night...probably at the ghosts looming around our room.

2. I almost bought "happy cookies" from a man on the street. They sounded cute! I'm so naive. I don't know how you guys let me out of the house. Luckily, Dan stopped me and explained that they were laced with hash. Ha. Oops.

3. Essaouira is a really lovely beach town. Reminded me of Mykonos with the narrow winding streets crammed with shops and tourists.

Part of the medina wall separated the town from the Atlantic ocean, so we climbed on it to get a view of our friends in NYC/Boston. I said hi, but I don't think any of you heard me.

A nice port too. I like looking at boats.

4. They have a market full of freshly caught sea animals. You pick a mix of seafood from a stall, and they grill it fresh right there!

5. Another lovely sunset. Must be so bad for my eyes staring at all these sunsets.

6. We were on a mission the entire trip to find Pastilla de Hamem (pigeon), and we finally found some! Most of the places we searched either hadn't heard of it (weird, as Wikipedia seems to think it's the national dish of Morocco), or they only served chicken (so boring, right?).

Anyway, it was worth the wait. It's a sweet and savory pie with a flaky pastry. The pigeon is shredded and served with a mix of spices, including a lot of cinnamon and some ground almonds. Topped with a drizzle of honey. The fish tagine with preserved lemons we had in the same meal was not nearly as memorable.

7. Caught an overnight bus to Casablanca.


I only spent one night in the city before I had to catch a flight. I just recall a lot of sleeping in the hostel, since we were stuck on a bus all night...and watching laundry dry (oh, the life of a cheap traveler).

I guess we also found time to:

1. Go to my last medina to buy a tagine. It's beautiful. I bought a new batch of ras al hanout that I'm fairly certain is actually quality stuff this time. I'm starting an international cooking club with some folks in Taiwan now, so I'm excited to try out my new goods on them! Will keep you posted on how that goes.

2. Get really lost one last time together. Thank goodness for nice Moroccan women who always seem to bail us out when we're wandering the streets confused.

3. Discover that "Star" brand Sauce Piquante is a.) amazing and b.) tastes just like the Taco Bell hot sauce packets at home.

4. Also discover that steeping tea in hot milk is a delicious idea.

5. OH! BEST PART! Went to a hammam, a traditional Moroccan public bath. It was incredible! Also, a bit awkward to say the least. It's always a little uncomfortable trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak your language...but imagine being naked the whole time too!

I was taken into a steam room, and I think told to sit down on a stool and poor buckets of hot water on myself. Then you lie on a marble slab and have them scrub you down with this special exfoliating mitten. We hadn't had a shower in a while, since we opted for a bus ride over a hostel the night before.

There was a lot of dead skin cells to dispose of. I looked around the table, and it looked like I was in the Sahara again. Yuck. I suppose you're always carrying around a bunch of dead skin that you don't really need though.

Then the lady soaps you down. You're taken to another room to shower yourself off. Then there's yet another table and a massage and more soap! The whole time everyone was gossiping around me in French, so that was fun too. It was nice to be among all women for a change as you don't have much interaction with many local women while you're on the road.

6. Flight to Dubai then Seoul then 30 or so hours later...finally Taipei!

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