Visual Travel Culture Document. morocco. The Atlantic Coast. Tangier - Asilah - Oualidia - Safi - Essaouira

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1 Visual Travel Culture Document morocco The Atlantic Coast 26 p A G e s PHOTO REPORT Tangier - Asilah - Oualidia - Safi - Essaouira

2 The sunset land From Tangier to Essaouira we travel across several coastal towns of the Moroccan Atlantic seaboard. Tangier

3 TANGIER The ferry has just entered into the bay of Tangier. The travellers, eager for landing, crowd around the bow. After rubbing their eyes to shake off of the tiredness and boredom of the trip they strain to absorb the first glimpses and scents of the city that seems to be almost about within their reach. Right away, their eyes start to focus on the blocks of the medina piled up the hill. The boat slows down to dock. One and a half hour from Algeciras on the south coast of Spain. We have come only 31 kilometres and we are now not only in another country, but a different continent too. We are on the threshold of Africa s gate, about to set foot on the world s biggest economic inequality. Through this strait pass more than two million people every year. Those heading north sure they will find streets of gold once arrived at their destination; and those who are southbound (as is in our case) paradoxically thinking the same, although we are searching for different riches. Northwards and southwards people cross paths. They avoid each others eyes, and when they do meet face to face, with bewildered looks, they ask each other the same question: why are you running away from paradise? The strait is a swirl of water and wind, a kaleidoscope of TB The Atlantic Coast

4 images made of primary colours; of memoirs, dreams and above all, mirages. Especially busy are the summer months in which thousands of Maghrebi (immigrants to Europe), return to visit their homelands. Once we land, we will have to get round the tourist hunters who speak to us brokenly in almost all languages and offer us their services as the best guides. Tangier is a city of contrasts and contradictions. To walk up and down its streets is to leaf through the book of both its past and its present. The chapter of its future surfs among the waves of the two seas that border its bay, between Cape Espartel and Cape Malabata. Sometimes this city is baffling and bewildering; sometimes fascinating and stunning. Samuel Peppys, English commissionaire during XVII century, described Tangier as a growth on the world. On the contrary, Matisse considered Tangier as Paradise on Earth. Unsurprisingly it was here that the painter started to express his art in that audacious and abstract way, with such intense expressive colours. Later on that would lead to the artistic movement called fauvism (after the French word fauve = beast). That defines Tangier, pure wild instinct. The visitor has to tame it if he does not wish it to tame him; the same way Hercules did with Anteo - Neptune s son and founder of the city. According to Greek mythology he named the city after his wife: Tingis. Its geographical situation, last vertex of the continent that divides the waters of Atlantic and Mediterranean, is like a sonar which has been receiving waves from all cultures and all civilizations. Tangier has learnt something from each of them, the good along with the bad, and no definition between them all, morphing into a kind of widower and stepchild of each of its influencers. Of Tangier it is said that is not really Morocco, but neither Europe nor Africa either. Throughout its history Barbarians, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, and various colonizing western powers, have been established here. Between XV and XVII centuries, the Portuguese, Spanish and English followed one another there. Mulai Ismail was the big sultan from the Alawi dynasty who created the current boundaries of Morocco. In 1684 it was he who recovered Tangier for Islam. The Muslims would be the owners of the city for the next two centuries. Meanwhile, the European powers were on the watch, coveting its beauty, and they finally attained their treasure in the mid XIX century. In the beginning of XX century Spain and France divided up Morocco into two protectorates. Somehow, the status of Tangier was not to be resolved until 1922, when the city and its surroundings were declared an international zone. The administration of the city laid in the hands of ten countries, under the vigilance of a mendub, a representative Caverns of Hercules. TB The Atlantic Coast

5 that acted on behalf of the sultan, whose function consisted of calming down the tense situations that such a variety of interests caused. The rules of the game were political and military neutrality as well as economic freedom. Until the independence of Morocco in 1956 Tangier enjoyed a high level of prosperity and artistic splendour. While Europe was being destroyed by war and totalitarian regimes, to this side of the Strait a small piece of sky opened up in the middle of a stormy scenario; the foreign capital slipped through it, and there people could glimpse the paradise of freedom, and indulgence as well. Tangier was a multi facetted mirror that reflected all that in the western world had to hide. Paradise or hell, depending on whose perspective. Spies, smugglers, gangsters, money launderers, gun-runners and pimps existed comfortably. Scenes for homosexuals, painters, musicians, writers and intellectuals. Transgressors, pursued and pursuers were drawn to Tangier like bees to the honey pot. Matisse, William Borroughs, Tenesse Williams, Truman Capote, Winston Churchill, Rita Hayworth, are some of the celebrities that spent time there. Others, like Paul Bowles stayed here forever. The writer and musicologist left his name forever bound to the city. We leave our ship behind, tiered at the quay, plunged into a deep sleep that will last until we awake from ours, at the end of our visit along the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Crossing Avenue D Espagne that runs along the harbour, we get into the medina through its southern gate, following rue Dar Dbagh till we arrive at Petit Socco, main square of the medina. William Borroughs described it as an infinite flow of indecent offerings. Even today is not strange for someone to approach with a proposal like something special for you, my friend. The Grand Mosquée stands out against all the buildings of the square. It was built by Mula Ismail to commemorate the Minzah Hotel interior. expulsion of the English. It is raised up over the ruins of a former Portuguese cathedral, where prior to that had stood a roman temple. Circling the mosque along its northern side, we go straight up Rue Jemma el-kehir (former Marina street), the liveliest street where we feel the fever of the commercial activity. South of the square there is the melah - the old Jewish Quarter. If we go uphill along Rue M. Torres, we arrive at the highest point of the medina, where the Kasbha is located, also erected by Mulay Ismail in the XVII century. Inside its walls there is the old sultan palace, Dar El-Makhzen. Nowadays it houses an interesting museum devoted to Moroccan arts and filled with antiquities coming from the archaeological ruins of Vollubilis, former roman capital of Tangitania. If we want to have a break, there is no better place than in the sultan garden, with Andalusian remembrances, and the Kasbha Square, with its stunning views over the bay. In the fifties, the Kasbah housed the legendary café; 1001 nights, where the band Master Musicians of Jakouka used to play. They came from a small western village near Rif. They delighted Paul Bowles in his first journey to Morocco in Bowles had come to Tangier following the recommendation of his friend Borroughs, specifically to get to know Moroccan music. Later on he would study Moroccan ethnomusicology and write TB The Atlantic Coast

6 several important essays on the subject. Following in Borroughs footsteps, other famous rockers such as Brian Jones (Rolling Stones) and Peter Gabriel, and jazz masters like Onnette Coleman, have visited Tangier. Today as one sits in the shade of the orange and pomegranate trees and listens to the bubbling water of its central fountain, it is difficult to imagine Bowles with his owlish expression, trying to interpret the elusive compasses of Tangier s music. Its structure varied and multi-facetted, and the more attention you pay, the more impossible it is to catch its variety and quality, Bowles himself said in his memoirs. In the Marsha quarter inside the medina there are various points of interest such as the Forbes Museum, former residency of the multimillionaire Malcom Forbes, which houses more than a hundred thousand military miniatures. Another curious building is that of the American Legacy Museum, given away by Mulay Suleiman to the United States authorities. Morocco was the first country to recognize USA as a nation following their independence. The treaty that was signed in 1786 between both countries is the longest running of American treaties. Nowadays, the building holds a remarkable collection from artists who lived in or passed through Tangier, as well as a section devoted to Bowles and the Beat generation. Before leaving the medina, we cannot miss a visit to the Haffa Café, the best place for having a mint tea and a rest in its peaceful terrace that overlooks the bay. This was one of Bowles favourite places. From the Petit Socco, we go down Rue Slaguin, and coming out of the Medina we lead into the Hotel Riat Tanja Restaurant TB The Atlantic Coast 6

7 Grand Socco, in the Nouvelle Ville. This square changed its name to April the 9th of 1947 to commemorate the date when the historic speech vindicating the independence of Morocco took place, made by the sultan at that time Mohammed V. This is the heart of Tangier. It was said to be as lively as Djemma el Fna of Marrakech. Travelling sellers, musicians, snake charmers and story tellers meet here. The square is dominated by the Sidi Bu Abid mosque; built in Nearby is the mendubia, former home of the mendub. We go on walking through Rue de la Liberté. We pass by Tangier s most exquisite and luxurious hotel, the Minzah. Even today it still upholds the legend of before with its renowned celebrities that have lodged here, such as Winston Churchill and Rita Hayworth. Here, as well as the Continental and the Café de Paris, some scenes of The Sheltering Sky by Bertolucci were shot, in which Bowles himself fleetingly appeared; Bowles being the author of the novel on which the film was based. Next stop: the Boulevard Pasteur. It is the main artery of modern Tangier. Here we can feel the glamour of the golden years coffee and suspicious looks, we evoke the yesteryear, surrounded by spies, gangsters and playboys, camouflaged among strict koranic observants. The heritage of that period has been perpetuated through the looks of distrust that try to unmask our true identity. After the coffee break, let s rejoin the turmoil of the pedestrians and noisy traffic in the street. Maybe we will find someone who remembers how multimillionairess Barbara Hutton crossed these streets in her Rolls Royce, and how some of the streets of the medina had to be widened so her ostentatious vehicle could circulate. Ever extravagant she was, bejeweled with emeralds and rubies that once belonged to now ruined ladies or dethroned queens. She was known as the donkey heroine, after one of her better caprices as she was fond of this animals company. Remarkable too were the wild parties that she threw at her luxurious Villa Sidi, a place that even the Spanish dictator Franco wanted to buy, where celebrities and high society members of that time met to attend surprising spectacles where belly dancers and harnessed camels acted out in its international cafés like the famous Café surreal choreographies. We come out of de Paris ( grand damme of Tangier s coffee society.) -Let s have a sit down. Among sips of Tangier, passing through La Montagne - an exclusive residential area with riads(moroccan style houses) and villas - and following the We can not miss a visit to the Haffa Café, the best place for having a mint tea and rest in its peaceful terrace that overlooks the bay. TB The Atlantic Coast 7

8 road 14km west we snake between rocky hills and calm beaches, finally arriving at cape Espartel. The Caverns of Hercules are located here where, according to the mythology, the hero retired after separating Africa from Europe. These are limey, shaded caverns where the sea enters during high tide. The only light enters through a hole in the rocks where some people see the inverted shape of the map of Africa, and others see the shape of a human head. Here also are located the prehistoric remains of the ancient inhabitants of the mythic Atlantida. We are in one of the most strategically a feverish hotch-potch of civilizations and cultures, the coastal towns we are going to visit next are every bit as intriguing, only on a smaller scale. Though these ones are more homogeneous than Tangier, they still are quite different from the in-land towns. Setting aside Rabat and Casablanca, political and business capitals respectively, which we will cover on forthcoming articles, we find in their outskirts small and charming towns, most of them established by one of the main European powers and empires that used them as gateways in their trade routes and military campaigns. central places in the world. To the east, the Mediterranean; to the west, the Atlantic; within a stone s throw, Europe; to the south, Africa and there are two thousand kilometres of Moroccan coast (if the disputed Western Saharan territory is included). If Tangier is Cap Espartel. Its geographical situation, last vertex of the continent that divides the waters of Atlantic and Mediterranean, is like a sonar which has been receiving waves from all cultures and all civilizations. TB The Atlantic Coast 8

9 Asilah Asilah is a town of anarchic sensations that harmonize in our minds stimulating us to search for something sublime.

10 Asilah lies down on the Atlantic coast like a neglected seashell washed up during the high tide. Wandering around her narrow streets, without direction (what else can we do inside a medina), we begin to decipher the secret code that the sun and the breeze have enscribed on her walls with bursts of white ink. Maybe this is the whisper of the muses that comes from the beating of the waves against her thick Portuguese walls, like an urgent message that breaks up on the streets, wrapping them up with a gentle layer of foam that refreshes and washes the facades, and the eyes of those who look at them as well. We discover in that way the transgressor power of our senses that, only here, are able to get through the apparently flat, lively white and empty surfaces, and find never imagined new dimensions. The walls are canvas, the squares stages, the clotheslines, musical instrument strings. Asilah is a town of anarchic sensations that harmonize in our minds stimulating us to search for something sublime. Colours, scents and sounds make up the amphibious path that leads to the prey we have so long been chasing. The gibberish of children romping around while the sun sets Asilah s folks entering the medina through one of the gates opened into the Portuguese walls. TB The Atlantic Coast 10

11 on their small bodies; women humming as they hustle around; echoes of koranic lessons staked out on a corner; fingers beating clay drums in a close but inaccessible backyard; the air perfumed with salt carries a soft sensation of nostalgia that evokes, when breathing in, what we always have longed for and was almost forgotten. On top of a bastion of the walls, with the city to our back, we watch the how the sun seemingly drops into the ocean. Then we realize that we are still in time. Going back through the labyrinth of the medina, we continue unravelling the thread of history in order to find out some of the answers of what Asilah can offer. Asilah is settled on a plane close to the Atlantic at 42 kilometres to the southeast of Tangier. It is a small town of fishermen and craftsmen. Its origin dates from about 3600 years ago when the Phoenicians chose it, a crossroad on their trade route, and founded Zilis, a few kilometres away from its current location. Because of its strategic location, Carthaginians, Romans, Barbarians, Arabs, Portuguese and Spanish succeeded one another in their occupation there. The defensive walls remain today as a lonely Wandering around her narrow streets we begin to decipher the secret code that the sun and the breeze scribbles on her walls with bursts of white ink. TB The Atlantic Coast 11

12 and the old watchtower that nowadays houses exhibitions. Very close from there, we find the Raisuli palace, built at the beginning of XX century, in Spanish-moorish style. The promoter of such a great building was Mulay Ahmed Raisuli, famous bandit of the Rif, whose name is bound to the history of the town he never lived in. His chaotic flirts with the Spanish and the Germans are what first gained him the title witness of those forgotten battles. They were erected by the Portuguese in the XVI century, during the reign of King Sebastian VI, who used Asilah as springboard to conquer Morocco. His ambitious intentions were frustrated in the famous Battle of the Three Kings where he was defeated along with of caid of the region of Tangier, as well as pacha of Asilah. In the same way they led him to be arrested and later murdered, at the hands of the rebels from the Rif. Nowadays his palace is devoted to housing exhibitions, conferences and recitals. Asilah s folks assure that his phantom two other allied sultans. The southwest side of the walls that faces the sea, is frequented every evening at sunset by zilitas (Asilha s inhabitants) as well as foreigners. From this site we get a privileged view of both the green vault of Sidi Mamsur and the Muyahiddin Cemetery, in which tombs are covered by coloured tiles made of ceramic (each colour represents a family). Three monumental gates open up the walls giving access to the old town: Kasbash Gate, Land Gate and Blue Gate. Through the latter we access to Sidi-Ali-Ben- Hamdush square, dominated by Kamra tower, The southwest side of the walls that faces the sea, is frequented by the zilitas (Asilah s inhabitants) as well as the foreigners. TB The Atlantic Coast 12

13 wanders around its rooms. What first calls our attention when walking around the luminous medina is the carefulness and cleanliness of the buildings and streets. What first calls our attention when walking around the luminous medina is the carefulness and cleanliness of the buildings and streets, a characteristic that is considered aseptic and tasteless for some people. In this area there are lot of workshops, exhibition rooms and galleries. It is not strange to find some artists and craftsmen who invite us to visit their work. This, as well as the painting walls, are owed to the cultural festival that has been held in Asilah every summer since Asilah lays down on the Atlantic coast like a neglected sea shell that comes up during the low tide. TB The Atlantic Coast 13

14 With the city in our back, we Watch how the sun dips into the ocean. Then, as we breathe the salty breeze, we realize that we are still in time.

15 Oualidia Oualdidia, small and quiet fishermen town, at the edge of a small half-moon shaped lake.

16 Boats devoted to the oyster collection. Litoral landscape between Oualidia and Safi. OUALIDIA Between El-Jadida and Safi, following down the coast, among marshes and crops we arrive in Oualdidia, small and quiet fishermen town, at the edge of a small half-moon shaped lake. It was founded by Sadi El-Ouladid sultan, from whom the name was taken. Oualdidia is famous by its oyster beds, which produce about two hundred tons per year. The oyster farming started developing since the fifties. The quiet waters of its small lake attract numerous tourists and wealthy families from Casablanca and Marraketch. To the south of Oualidia, the coastal road flows through green meadows of a primitive purity and flown crops cut by stunning cliffs above clean coves of smooth sand. TB The Atlantic Coast 16

17 Safi The atlantic coast, inmense eyelid that looks at the sea. Rough swell that roars pronouncing neglected prayers that disappear among the dark and thin sand where a sleepy saint rest in his morabito, plunged into a faded dream for ever and ever

18 SAFI Safi is the main fishing harbour of the Atlantic, as well as a prosperous industrial town with excellent economic perspectives. To this contribute, on the one hand, the big phosphate processing plant, to the south of the town; and on the other, the big industrial complex devoted to the manufacture of canned sardine, that turns Safi into the first world exporter of this product with thirty thousand tons per year, in spite of the activity slump since the beginning of the eighties, due to the contamination of the sea waters that forced the sardine shoals to emigrate to the south. Although Safi has a very good reputation among Moroccan people, it hardly receives foreigners. This is because of its industrial profile and its proximity to Essaouira. The old medina, surrounded again by Portuguese XVI century walls, is placed Safi pottery has international fame is one of its hallmarks. TB The Atlantic Coast 18

19 Old wood kiln in the Coline des Potiers (potters hill). In Safi all kind of ceramic objects are made: bowls, vases, dishes,

20 at the downside of the town. At one end, overlooking the sea, there is the Qasr al Bahr, stunning square fortress, conceived to defend the harbour entrance; and at the eastern end, there is another fortress, Kelshla, which currently houses the National Ceramic Museum. Precisely, Safi pottery has international fame and is, together with its booming industrial activity, one of its hallmarks. To the north of the medina, outside the walls, there is the Coline des Potiers (potters hill). Here, all the pottery process can be followed, according to as those green tiles that decorate the top of many representative building all over the country. traditional handmade rules: cisterns where the clay is stirred, workshops where the craftsmen mould and enamel the pieces; the firing process in old wood kilns, and small shops for exhibition and selling. All kind of ceramic objects are made: bowls, vases, dishes, as well TB The Atlantic Coast 20

21 Essaouira The strong trade winds, that blow during all the year, form small dunes along the endless beaches of Essaouira.

22 ESSAOUIRA Our journey through the Atlantic coast of Morocco ends in Essaouira, about eight hundred kilometres from the Strait of Gibraltar, where we started. At first sight, the history of this town, on the whole, does not differ from that of other Moroccan fortified towns we have yet visited or passed by; Asilah, Azemmour, El Jadida, or Safi. Her urban structure is not different either. A glimpse at her many name changes though, and we can follow the tracks of those who fought for her, conquering her coveted walls. Firstly, the town was the Berber Amogdul, which means well kept or fortified. Later on, it was the Portuguese Mogdura. The Spanish, based on their implacable phonetic, transformed Mogdura into Mogadur, and the French did their part turning Mogadur into Mogador. Merely altering a vowel was not enough for Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah, under whom the city became Arabic again in the middle of XVIII c. and was given its definitive name Essaouira, which means something like well fortified or well designed. The town then flourished under the auspices of the Alawi sultan, who wanted to punish rival city Agadir, The Skala de la Ville is a privileged place, overlooking the cliff, where the Atlantic waves break.

23 which at that time hostilely monopolized trade with Europe. The construction of what would become the biggest harbour of the empire was entrusted to a French prisoner: the engineer and topographer Théodore Cornut., as well as the new town s design. Following the patters of Vauban, his master, in Saint-Malo, he made a straight layout with wide streets, surrounded by stately defensive walls. It was the golden age for the town. The sultan ordered all European consuls to come from Sale and Agadir. Some of the richest families of the country had settled in Essaouira by that time. The intense harbour activity, which concentrated 40% of all Moroccan sea trading, propitiated the settlement of the most important European business houses. Jews were numerous. They were distinguished View of Essaouira with the bastion of Skala du Port and the Mogador island in the distance.

24 jewellers. Their daughters were said to have a delicate beauty and sharp intelligence. According to the legend, they were kidnapped to feed the harems in Fez. Essaouira was an effervescent melting pot, a complex mosaic made of the different tribes that today still inhabit Morocco: the haha, berber-speaking from the south; the shiadma, arab-speaking from the north, and the guenauas, blacks native to Sudan, Senegal and Guinea who were former slaves employed in the plantations and sugar factories of the near Ksob river. It was during the Protectorate period, with the boom of Casablanca that Essaouira began to revel in decadence. the Mogador Island in the far distance. It is, in fact, a small archipelago made of two islands surrounded by several rocky islands, and was previously known as Purple Islands. Here the Romans cultivated the mollusc called murice, which was used to obtain the purple colour with which the emperors tunics were dyed. Nowadays it is a sanctuary for the Eleonora s Falcon that comes here for breeding from Madagascar, and stays from April to October. It is getting dark. The light has a hypnotizing shade. The latest fisherman are packing up their nets and preparing themselves for the following day s tasks. It is time for counting A stroll around the old city and the harbour is a good start to retracing the stages that made Essaouira what it is today. From the neoclassic Arch of La Marina, which communicates the medina with the harbour, we follow the ancient splendour reflected in the tortured architecture of the walls, whose blocks are being melted all through the centuries, like sugar lumps, because of the obstinate mixture of wind and salt. Next to the harbour stays the Skala du Port, impressive bastion built on the seaside. From here there is a beautiful view with the fishing harbour below us and Cinnamon, pepper, red pepper. Each spice has its colour. Each colour is a shade for each dish: cuscus, tajine, kefta Sesame, saffron, mint, coriander. Intense flavours that will burn in the palate before being saved in our memory. up their catches. A few hours before, next to the harbour entrance which place that serves as a fish market, the fish was being sold off. The jingle of coins and the squawk of seagulls searching desperately for their daily ration among the left-over fish, has now replaced the fish-trader s shouts. The fishing boats rock on the quiet waters as if they were warming up before weighing anchor at dawn; they are perfectly aligned like theatre stalls with their dark blue painted hulls. Far away, the sun begins to set, gently plunging into the ocean. It spreads its dying purple rays, over a jailed sky that wraps the island of Mogador,

25 where the falcons perform their bewildering dance. In the battlements of the Skala du Port, we sit down on a rusted cannon. Our imagination flies. The echoes from an Othello passage resound in the memory: If I do prove her haggard, Though that her jesses were my dear heartstrings, I d whistle her off and let her down the wind, to pray at fortune. Said Othello about Desdemona in a place like this, why not? That is what Orson Welles could have been thinking when he chose Essaouira for exterior shooting in his version of Shakespeare s classic, at the start of the fifties. The mean Welles, who was said to pay his assistants with canned sardines, was the pioneer in establishing here a modest branch of Hollywood. Since then, many blockbusters have been shot. The last Kingdom of Heaven by Ridley Scott. Not only has the cinema been seduced by the magic attractiveness of this town. A decade after Welles s version of Shakespeare s tragedy, different winds would blow over this small corner of the Atlantic. Libertine winds with undisciplined habits. They were the sixties. With Sex, drugs, and rock and roll as their motto, a legion of hippies created their own paradise outside the world and its asphyxiating structures in this remote place: pacifists, apostates, agnostics, mystics of their own religion, artists, wandering writers, eccentric musicians etc. They created a legend that still lasts today with which with some crafty guides dazzle the tourists. Jimmi Hendrix, Cat Stevens, The Rolling Stones and Leonard Cohen, were here. Some of them stayed for long periods. All of them became inspired beneath the hazy sky of Essaouira. However, those bonfires around which crazy dances were performed, imitating ancient rites, and the LSD substituted the incense, were put out a long time ago. Currently, the authorities are determined to sieve every grain of sand in order to remove any suspicious object from its long beach, just in case anyone come across hidden embers that could again stoke up that old fire. Nowadays the surfers, are the masters of the beaches. Look a golden winged ship is passing my way, and it really didn t have to stop, it just kept on going. And so castles made of sand slips into the sea eventually. Said one of the most famous songs by the Cherokee Hendrix. Following the Rue de la Skala we arrive at the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the Mulay El-Hassan square we come across some clues that reveal a schizophrenic truth. It is the consequence of times past that needs to be analyzed through the eyes of geology in order to recognise the various stratums that the wind of history has deposited. Superimposed tracks made of distant footsteps converge at one point. A crossroads of cultures, religions and civilizations that rarely lived together in harmony, most of the time fighting for the ownership of this territory. White houses with peeling off walls, blue windows and yellow frames, where the Moroccan style mixes with the Portuguese. At this late hour, the town seems to withdraw after a busy day. The streets are invaded by a weary atmosphere. This, however, is an illusion - it is a distinctive feature of Essaouira. Inside her walls the town is quiet at any hour, as if always expecting something - like the sleepy beauty, one of its titles. The fact is that the town does not sleep, but it remains behind the false wall of its dreams, listening to the whistle of the wind outside. Inside, slowness reigns. It is said to be a Portuguese legacy. Even women, hidden behind the white veil (hakik) suggest that distant, suspicious TB The Atlantic Coast 25

26 and melancholic face, characteristic of the Lusitanian saudade; and their slow way of walking has the rhythm of a fado. We walk, sticking to the wall, secretly, as if we were entering into somebody else s house while its owners sleep. Right away we find the Skala de la Ville, another bastion, overlooking the cliff. A steeped passage goes down to the caves, where the best Moroccan marquetry craftsmen work the tuya wood, from a tree that was abundant in the region, but today is beginning to be scarce. The craftsmen beautify the wood with mother-ofpearl incrustations, copper and silver threads. Tugging the thread, we go from the guild of craftsmen to the one of jewellers, in the small street of Siaguin. This work was made in the past by Jews. Nowadays most of the pieces are made in Casablanca. Today, the mellah, Jewish quartier, presents an aspect of decadent and almost criminal orphanhood. Before collapsing from exhaustion we take a break at one of the cafés of the quiet and shady Bal-El Sebaa square. It s the perfect place to review our journey, or simply fall asleep before we are atartled by the reminder of having to leave. In this corner of the Atlantic, where the wind keeps on blowing, bringing bottles from everywhere with secret messages inside, we set the curtain down. Just as a gust of wind shook us as we crossed the strait, plunging us into a deep dream and throwing us as if shipwrecked on Tangier, now another gust of wind plunges us into a different deep dream. When we wake up we will be coming back home. At that time, we will ask ourselves if everything has not been but a dream. The answer will be inside our lungs: the purified air; it is the vital element that only experience those who get into the reality of a place that is not theirs. We certainly did - getting involved with the folks, their history or current circumstances, and future concerns. That s the way our beliefs are questioned in order to dismiss those which are useless, and reinforce those which really matter. Both things are vital to breathing, to feeling alive. The fisherman pick up their nets after the fish has just being auctioned. Credits Photos: Jesús Lopez Text: Miguel Ángel Calle Translation: Chatherine Reddington Design: Eiko Liefold Hotels El Minzah: Maison d hôtes Dar Nour: Maison d hôtes Dar Sultan: Maison d hôtes Berbari: TB The Atlantic Coast 26

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