Saturday, January 23, 2010

More Morocco: Essaouira

Essaouira is colorful in a different way than Marrakech.  It is bright white and blue as opposed to Marrakech's rose.  From the ocean side it could almost be taken for a Greek island town.  There are surfers on the beach.  The camera is drawn to bright colors.

And to cute vignettes.

But although I felt freer in Essaouira than I had in Marrakech, I still felt as I had there: outside and unwelcome, as I had rarely felt anywhere else I traveled.  It's possible that the inwardness of the culture, the blank walls and closed shutters, contributed to this feeling, and the strictures of a Muslim culture underlying a tourist economy definitely did, but I felt uncomfortable in many ways.


I didn't feel free to hold Gene's hand in the streets or have his arm around my shoulders.  I didn't like seeing women bundled up as if their very existence were shameful, even if I assumed they didn't mind it themselves.  I didn't like the fact that nothing remained of a once large and vibrant Jewish community.  I didn't like the sense that, with only a few exceptions, I was viewed only as a source of income to most of the people I encountered, and not as a human being.   

To be fair I should say that Gene liked it much more than I did.  He didn't feel as excluded, or not to the same degree.  I wonder if being a man made him feel more comfortable.

I know others who have had different experiences, friends who love Morocco and return again and again, but my sense of otherness there was much different than the otherness I've felt in Asia, for example, where I never felt deliberately excluded. 

Of course I know that people living in a tourist destination must feel invaded and resent being seen as 'local color', but I wanted to feel that I could enter and learn about the place I was visiting.  Instead I felt that it was closed to me, and in some cases there was actual hostility, as when I turned down efforts to sell me something. 


I wanted to feel a welcome visitor and instead I felt locked out.  I'm glad I went but I doubt I'll return.


Julie R said...

And your pictures reflect your impressions of the city. Intentionally?

Amanda said...

How sad but I am not surprised you felt that way.

Shelli said...

Yes, Julie, I found that I had a lot of photos of walls and doors and they reflected my feelings so that's what I chose for this post.

Priscila Andrade ( said...

Dear Shelli and Gene,

Last year and our blog Lexiophiles launched the Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blogs 2009. It was rewarding and we really enjoyed bringing the exchange blogger community together, and here we go again:

It’s time for The Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blogs 2010, also known as IX10.

We are looking for the top 100 blogs about life abroad and your blog has been nominated. The nomination period goes from January 22nd to January 31st. Feel free to spread the word among bloggers writing about life in a foreign country.

The voting starts on February 1st and goes till February 14st 2010. At the end of the two-week voting period, the blogs with the most votes will win.

If you want to read more about IX10 visit Lexiophiles (

Send me an email in case you don’t want to be included in this list or if you have any further questions about the competition.

Kind regards,


On behalf of the and Lexiophiles team