I'm sitting on the roof terrace of our maison d'hotes overlooking the beach, where the wings of kitesurfers and seagulls make graceful motions in the sky. Behind me are the white walls and bright blue window frames of the houses in the medina, and in front of me the beachfront Chalet de la Plage, where I had fresh grilled shrimp for lunch yesterday.
Essaouira is much smaller than Marrakech. It's also quieter and, from an outsider's perspective, appears less strict in its customs. I see some apparently Moroccan girls in short-sleeved shirts walking arm in arm (one dark-haired girl wearing a tee shirt proclaiming how proud she is to be blonde) and tourist couples holding hands without incurring the scowls of the residents. Essaouira appears to be more used to decadent Westerners and more willing to tolerate them.
That's not to say we've left traditional Morocco behind. This street singer is making the rounds of the cafés.
And these women are still veiled in the street, while carpets are still being sold to tourists.
There are cats everywhere, as there have been everywhere we've been.
We've been thrilled to be able to leave behind the inevitable tagines and couscous of the interior for the fresh fish of the coast. Much as I love Moroccan food, it's become a bit boring to see the same offerings on every menu. Last night we had excellent pasta at a strange little place called Elizir, a series of small rooms filled with an incredible mix of 1950's furniture, lamps and objets d'art.
Today we tried to buy our lunch from the line of fish stall grills near the beach, but even there one has to negotiate the price and we were too cranky from hunger to take part in the haggling. Instead we walked up the beach to a more ordinary place where the clientele was a mix of French residents, tourists and surfers.
Tomorrow we leave for Paris, but I have so many more photos of our stay here I'll try to post some more on the next few days. It's been quite a trip.