Coasting in Essaouira, getting lost in Meknes

I stayed three nights in the port city along the Atlantic Coast, Essaouira (pronounced esa-wera). Alyssa and Andy left for Marrakech (then on to Italy) after two but I wanted to soak up a little more sun in this lovely little town. We spent our time walking the beach, eating kebabs, wandering around the markets and sitting on our hotel’s rooftop terrace soaking in the view. On the third day, after parting with my travel companions (who are greatly missed already!), I finally had grilled calamari to satisfy my seafood craving.

Afterwords I took a final stroll along the beach, where I used the “f” word for the first time while traveling. I felt a little hesistant to use it but as a solo female traveler I felt like I had no other choice. A young man fell into stride with me and after a few minutes, when it was obvious when I wasn’t going to shake him with my usual tactics, I resorted to using the word: “You know,” I said, “my fiancee would be very jealous if he knew I was talking to you.” Doubtful that this blatant lie would actually work, I was astonished to watch him peel off faster than he had approached! It was like I had discovered a secret word that enabled some sort of forcefield around me. I was untouchable. Just to check its efficacy in a new city, I used this “f” word on another young gentleman who took a liking to me today as I wandered through the fruit and spices market in Meknes. As soon as I uttered the word, he nodded and fell back, wishing me a good day. Brilliant.

Yesterday morning I left Essaouira for Marrakech, where I was catching a train up to Meknes (one of the three imperial cities of Morocco, located near the Middle Atlas mountains). The bus broke down halfway to Marrakech so we had to swap buses, making us about an hour late. I still had about an hour before my train departed for Marrakech, so I decided to brave the public transportation to visit the famous Koutoubia Mosque. I had a lot of locals helping me along the way and I made it there and back on the bus with 10 minutes to spare! The one take-away from this quick excursion is that I could use some basic French lessons to get around the next time I’m in a French-speaking country. C’est la vie.

The train ride to Meknes (about 7 hours) went smoothly until a bunch of screaming children got on my car about halfway through the ride. Then about two hours from Meknes I was awakened by two train stewards who were urgently speaking in French to me. When it was obvious I wasn’t understanding their instructions, they said “change, change” over and over. My heart fell because I thought they were telling me that I had to transfer trains at the next stop and it was already very late. Instead, they told me to gather my things and explained that since I was “alone” I was being moved to first class – what luck! The difference between first and second class was quite remarkable…I hope to stumble upon the same fortune on my return trip.

Today I have been exploring Meknes slowly. Every time  I try to follow Lonely Planet’s walking tour through the souks (markets) and around the medina (the walls of the old city) I get lost. Perhaps it is time to venture out again and continue on my way. At least I have the “f” card in my back pocket now.

 

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