“There is only one tower where I know I’d live and be locked up forever, even to die there rather than return the keys – Mogador in Africa.” Paul Claudel
Essaouira, (formerly Mogador) is a walled city dating from the time of the Phoenicians, who named it Migdol or small fortress. In 1506, the city became the seat of a Portuguese fortress and was strengthened by the construction of ramparts.
We started at the fortress, surrounded by gulls who would be hoping for some fishy tidbits later in the day.
A short video at the fortress (Click on the image to watch)
After another delicious lunch, we headed to the fish market – the quantities and varieties just amazed me.
Crabs for sale
Sting rays for sale
Please excuse the way my sketches from this adventure are slowly dribbling in as I continue working on them, in between any new places I find!
Friday was Day 6 in Essaouira – time to get some serious sketching in. Also, serious shopping, serious massages, serious rug buying, you know, important things before we leave!
Karen (from Art Safari) took us down some alleyways to teach us about perspective. Just when you think you’ve got the hang of something, you learn new points that really make a difference!
Here are some of my efforts to practice perspective in my art…
Perspective – Mosque doors
Perspective – arches
Perspective – rug alley
And here’s one that looks as if I learned nothing, hah. Tamusica was an interesting shop with various drums and other musical instruments hanging around.
After Karen found us a colorful rug shop, the owner came out and yes, he did sell some rugs to us. (Not me, I was waiting to purchase mine in Marrakesh.) It’s quite an experience, looking at and buying a rug. You are ushered in, offered tea (which you must accept!), and presented with rug after rug until finally, you either find one you love or are worn down by their persistence! Next comes the bargaining. It’s really different than our big box stores!
Moustafa, a rug seller
And, for my last night in Essouira, I ended up with an upset tummy. By upset tummy I mean I couldn’t go very far from the bathroom. This continued each night until my return to stateside.
Unfortunately, it made me miss the going-away get-together the other folks had that night. They were all flying back to London the next day, and I would be on my way to Marrakesh.
Essaouira day 5 – Thursday
After breakfast, we walked down to the harbor to sketch the boats. They were so blue, and I was so intent on my sketching that I nearly missed a wagon full of sharks being unloaded!
The blue boats of Morocco
Essaouira harbor boats
Lunch today was at Taros, a rooftop restaurant. We noticed a lady eating sea urchins, they come by the dozen, like clams, and apparently are quite delicious. No thank you, I’d rather have my goat cheese and beet roots.
After lunch, to the fort – this time going inside and climbing up to the top for views of the local coast.
The fort at Essaouira
After that, the Essaouira fish market, which was very busy. Similar to the dogs at the meat market, there were many cats and kittens hanging around for scraps.
Essaouira fish market
I did several sketches at the fish market, but will add color and post them later.
For our third day in Essaouira (Tuesday), we had our art lesson on the roof, sunshine and perfect temperatures as usual. I think we are spoiled with this weather! Well, I am, for sure. The thought of returning to wintry weather back home is the furthest thing from my mind right now!
Karen (our art tutor) discussed colors – contrast, cooler vs. warmer, neutrals, how to use color to recede shapes and a great idea for texture – using wax resist.
We walked down to the fort area, with cannons and ramparts and started sketching.
Original fort walls
Our lunch was at a sunny rooftop restaurant. Taking a break from the delicious Moroccan fare, I split a pizza with Karen.
Next, I passed on sketching and went shopping. A few of us stopped into a store and bought lovely linen jalabas, which are hooded caftans. The owner thought we were trying to negotiate, when really, we were only deciding whether to buy them right then, or wait until we returned. So he talked himself down 25% by the time we decided! This was after he said he didn’t negotiate! He made sure to have them shortened and delivered to our riad. I doubt you’ll find that kind of service at home, especially for that price!
Late afternoon – Karen and Nancy decided to go for a camel ride. Abdul (our Moroccan guide) came with us to the beach and took care of getting us there and getting the camels. I decided not to ride, but instead to sketch the one camel (meant for me in case I changed my mind) who posed ever so nicely. The minute my sketch was done, he got up and ambled away. No one was there to make sure he didn’t leave. And no one was there (that I could see) to attend to the horse that galloped by. Whaaat? Just horses and camels strolling about the beach. That is so not normal in the U.S. At home, all creatures are tied up or penned in.
This was just another moment in time that added to the surreal Moroccan experience.
My camel. (that I didn’t ride!) While sketching, Abdul needed to remind me to extend his lower lip. (The camel’s, not Abdul’s!)
But – back to their camel ride – I got some gorgeous shots of them riding off into the sunset.
Karen and Nancy riding their camels into the sunset
Dinner that night was fish. Fresh fish caught that day at a popular seaside eatery. Sea bass, sardines, crab, lobster, sea bream, calamari, red snapper, plate after plate (after plate!) of fish was served. Unfortunately, my very first bite resulted in a tiny bone getting lodged in my gums. And truthfully, while I did try a fish or two, I’m not used to so many kinds of fresh, fresh fish. And not so much a sea food lover. I didn’t go hungry though, there were enough fries and salad!
Essaouira fish dinner
Note: I know it’s been awhile since my last post! I went away (yes, again) and now the holidays are here. I appreciate your patience while I play catchup!
Day 1 started off with a short art lesson on the roof. Temperatures were comfortable mid 70s the entire week. Karen (of Art Safari) had some really great tips and instructions on perspective, and how to “shrink” people as they get further away, depending if you are sitting or standing. She also gave a few pointers on the different arch types in buildings.
Our first lesson was valuable with so many people around!
Then, we were off exploring this new town. So many sights, sounds, people and creatures – it could have been overwhelming to the senses, but Karen got us sketching first thing, and that definitely got me focused: What do I want to sketch? Study it before starting. Then, just make the lines. Everything else slowly fades away.
After a bit, we all stopped for a break. The mint tea again! Oh joy. I so need to learn to re-create at home. But it’s never the same, is it?
Then more walking, some lunch and more sketching. (Exactly what I came for!) We found (I should say Abdul found it!) a shop that sold spices and watercolor pigments. The owner happily demonstrated the various colors, which several of us went back to purchase later.
Watercolor Pigments such as mogador blue and blue marjorelle
Closed up the afternoon sketching in a square with colorful rugs for sale, displayed on the sidewalk, even hanging from trees!
Although I was still on US time internally and woke up super early, I nearly missed my flight! I did not realize there was passport inspection after going through security. And there were tons of people! As I ran to my gate, I could see the door was closed. Oh crap, I thought. Breathless, I asked if there was anyway I could get on? Then I stopped and saw several others in the same situation as me. “They’re taking us to the plane” someone said. Oh phew! I would’ve been flustered had I truly missed it!
Then, on the plane, super roomy! Thank you Iberia! Can you sell a plane or two to United? Their planes have zero leg room!
Arriving in Marrakech, it is one hour ahead of Madrid, so I get to live 12:25 to 1:25 all over again. Kind of makes up for the running for the plane out-of-breath part.
Arriving at the airport
I was met by our driver and my guide, Abdul. We took off in comfort in the German camel (a Mercedes SUV).
We stopped at a roadside diner for lunch, where I got an omelet with mushrooms, a flat bread and two dipping sauces (not sure what flavors?) and had my first (but not last) taste of their delicious mint tea. Ahh.
Omelet with mushrooms and delicious mint tea
Three hours later, we arrived in Essaouira. My riad was in the walled medina, so we left the car, took my luggage and walked through the cobblestone streets the last part.
The riad Al Medina was very charming.
Riad Al Medina
My room was nice, with separate living area, bedroom and upstairs bath. The bathroom lighting was a bit dim, but otherwise it was a nice place to stay.
Next up – our first day in Essaouira with the group and Karen!