Day one: Traveling to Essaouira

Morocco Day one.

I’m currently sitting in one of the more beautiful places that I have stayed. Soft music is playing, candles are lit everywhere and the entire place is toned to Arabian Nights perfection. This is my base for the next few days in Essaouira.

Just a few feet away is a bustling street. Vendors and stalls pack both sides. The air is alive with the sounds of traders and patrons going about their business. If you did not know where to look, you would it entirely. Right now being here is completely relaxing and exactly what is needed after a hectic day.

I did not need to worry about sleeping through my alarm as I simply could not sleep. The pillows that the Yotel provided looked to be fluffy and thick. Yet this proved to be mealy an illusion. The second that I lay my head down, they immediately went flat as a pancake. The only use that I could find for them were to keep my ears warm as they wrapped themselves around my head. Eventually, after various folding, shaping and squeezing of the stuffing I managed to get comfortable. Then I moved slightly and my head was flat against the mattress. In desperation I folded my wafer thin duvet into something approximating a pillow and tried to sleep on that. I think I managed to slip into sleep a couple of times, but for no more then a half or or so. All too soon the time ticked around to 5am and it was time to head to the terminal; sleep deprived and with a stomach doing flips due to the nervousness that now seems customary when I travel.

Checking in and getting through security was a breeze. Even though the lines were packed even at this god forsaken hour of the morning. The plane ride was pleasant and uneventful. Occasionally the cloud cover broke long enough to get a glimpse at the land beneath. One of these occasions was when we were passing over the Pyrenees and I was treated to a magnificent view of the snow capped peaks. Although I would have been unable to recognise it from the air; I knew that one of those peaks would be the Col du Tormelet – which I visited the last time that I was in France. I looked just as spectacular from the air as I remember it from the ground.

Landing at Marrakech, I met up with the rest of the party that are here for the retreat. My initial apprehension seems to have been assuaged as everyone seems very nice, friendly and chatty. The impression is that everyone is looking forward to the experience to come.

We jumped into a minibus to begin our three hour journey to Essaouira. We will be returning to Marrakech later in the week, but before that we will have plenty to do and explore.

The roads here reminded me of Turkey, in fact the similarity is striking. The major difference being that driver do not appear to have deathwishes. In just a few short miles, I had seen enough oddities to satisfy a million e-mail forwards. Small mopeds with multiple passengers and overloaded with luggage. Tractors with huge bags of grain tied to any available surface and a another tucked under the drivers arm! On the geeky yet slightly non-PC side of things I keep seeing Star Wars everywhere. I know that it was filmed here, and that must of influenced George Lucas to some extent, but I did not realise in what way until now. I keep seeing Jawas everywhere. More precisely, I keep seeing their costume. Shepherds and other workers lining the roads wear it. I must be some sort of national dress, I will have to find out more.

We stopped for lunch, eating in a marquee with a colour scheme that reminded me of a circus. The food was good, even if we were besieged by cats begging for our scraps. Animals are everywhere here. Horses and donkeys pull carts. All manner of grazing animals can be seen alongside the road. In the towns and villages cats and dogs roam free. I even saw a camel being ridden though one town.

Our final destination is a fortified town next to the sea. My initial reaction was that it reminded me strongly of St Marlo. Having wondered for a while, I like it immediately. I can’t wait for tomorrow so that I can see it properly and begin our photography lessons. I’m hoping to get a lot out of this and to rekindle a creative spark that has gone out in the last few months, plus I’ll get to see the town in more detail.

The hotel is amazing, French colonial, thick granite walls and an internal square open to the elements where we will eat communally. Carpets and silks hang from the walls. Rose petals are scattered with abandon. My riad is a tasteful lime green affair. A large brass bed is complemented by sofas and more then enough pillows to keep even me happy. It is a big change from my usual travel accommodation. I could get used to such luxury!

I only took a couple of photos today. The Real work in that department begins tomorrow.

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