Why I’m going to move to Morocco
I’ve just come in off the terrace for a bit of shade and cool breeze cos the 90 degree temperatures are cracking the tiles and boiling me glass of water.
I’m In Essouria, a coastal resort 180km from Marrakesh, Morocco. And it is a dream. I have always suffered from the “I could live here disease”. Those of you familiar with it will recognize it firstly when you start looking in estate agent windows, then asking questions about the taxation system. I know, its sad but a man’s got to dream.
We are staying in the medina within the walled old city where rabbit warren streets and hobbit like doors look out onto a 500-year-old city unchanged by the time and America. It could be seen as intimidating to the untraveled but what it holds is a sense of magic and ancient ritual where the call to prayer rings out from its many mosques and Arabic and French sit side by side as mother tongue.
The medina streets are filled with minute doorways epherevescing brightest freshest fruit and vegetable glow. Strawberry sellers on corners with carts of the biggest fattest bulbous strawberries I have ever seen with a punnet twice the size of any Tesco for 25p. Oranges freshly squeezed into iced glass for 30p, home baked bread for 10p loaf. Traditional Moroccan cous cous and tagines are 40p and if you eat Berber food by the silver souks your talking 50p for 3 courses a and everything is prepared in front of your eyes.
I have watched the fisher men at the harbor at 8am throwing freshly caught Mackerel, plaice, Dorado, crab, lobster, eel, langoustine octopus and some I just do not know the name of. From there they are carried in ice to fish stall that adorn one of the many square where you can buy them for a 10th of the price of at home, then hand them to a man with a charcoal grill who will barbecue it for you there and then for 25p.
If you want to go to proper restaurants you won’t pay more than a tenner for the finest steak, eight for fish and five for tradional food and ladened with bread and water. For veggies and vegans there’s a whole square to choose from but my favorite is Earth Café – a shoebox with enough seating for 12 inside and 10 outside. Where the woman cooks in a kitchen the size of a cooker a wok and a sink and a menu of 7 meals crayoned onto mirror. Filo pasty stuffed with aubergine, ricotta, lentils, veggie burger of mashed potato, pumpkin, sweet potato on a bed of roast veg and the best juices money can buy and you won’t spend more than 5.50 on a main.
But it isn’t just the food. Just walking through the souks it a feast to the eyes and nose. But it’s not for everyone. Some people would find it dirty. We walked behind a couple yesterday who held their noses and grimaced with every step and cries of, “It’s filthy here”, rang out unashamed and without the slightest respect for the English speaking locals of which there are many but the main language is French. Yes it is dirty in places, drains do explode after heavy rain and you do see sheep and chickens and lamb being butchered on stalls at the side of the road but in some ways it feels cleaner than at home – no processed meat, no cling film or freezer counter because what you get here is fresh. We are so used to our prepack plastic wrapped food that we tend to think it is cleaner. But it just isn’t.
We are staying in a riad in the medina, designed and built by a Mad Man U fan from Salford who came out here eight years ago and decided to take a parcel of empty space and rubble and turn it into a palace – that’s another major thing, it does look dirty and broken down from the outside but heind some of these walls are gardens of Eden, silent resplendent and luxurious with the most beautiful tiled court yards pools and fountains that appears to be behind a building site.
Stuart, the owner of the Riad we are staying at said, “It ticks all my boxes, sea sand sun, cost, accessibility to home (our plane took 3 hours 10 minutes and cost £60 return) culture, food, cost people and accessibility to the mountains, cities. He built the riad in 18 month with local labor, employing local tradesmen (Who turn up an hour after a phone call and fix your problem for £2 (compare home when you need a plumber/spark/joiner) He used a local architect and 90% of the house was built by men who live less than a mile away.
The Riad is built over 4 floors with a total of 9 rooms for guest and has a roof terrace that catches the sun till 5pm. The Riad like much of the housing in Morocco has an open courtyard so birds fly down and sit on the balustrade to watch you eat breakfast. There is a feeling of the outside being in and vice versa. Cool breezes saunter through as if ordered when temperatures rise and the sound of seagulls constantly reminds you that this is not Rhyl.
Riad life is different. You don’t just sit in your room and read the guide books. You sit in a communal area by an open fire with a cold can and conversation. You share travel tips and tales of snow capped mountains, gorges the size of Hendrix myths and of cities that have changed little since the time of the crucifixion.
We watched the match in a shop no bigger than two toilet cubicles then walked on a beach that runs for 3-4 miles to Diabet, where Hendrix allegedly stayed a month before Woodstock.
Please, don’t spend your grands on shitty meaningless trips to shoeboxes in deserts to meet Collyhurst couples chatting City. Spend half of that and have the most unforgettable experience of your life and come to Essouria and like me you might catch a dose of “I could live here disease”
Well a man’s got to dream.