Morocco Road Trip II: Marrakesh to Essouira

After breakfast in Marrakesh, Elton John and I prepared to leave. We took a leisurely walk to the parking area and I bought nuts. It wasn’t very cold that morning, perfect for the trip.

Essaouira at seven in the morning.

I wanted to see Essaouira (Sor-yah/Esor-yah) mainly to see where they shot some scenes from Game of Thrones. Elton was in charge of navigation. Google Maps wasn’t working well but Here app was great. I didn’t even know about that app until I saw him use it. Everyday, he stuck his own phone holder on the windshield. From the app, we can see the map, time of arrival, speed, kilometers reached, and speed limit of the road. It beeps when you go 10 kilometers above the limit. Isn’t that amazing? Elton prefers Google Maps but I think Here is great.

I saw a lot of Argan trees along the road from Marrakech to Essaoiura. The view is awesome—rolling hills, summer shades everywhere, snow-capped mountains. When you get to the Citadel of Essaouira, you will see the Atlantic Ocean. Seagulls everywhere. We parked near the walls of the Citadel, beside the stretch of seafood restaurants where the fresh catch of the day is displayed. You will choose which ones you like and have them cook it. The price was higher than ours in the Philippines, but not by much (if we’re eating Dampa-style, similar to this). They eat seafood with bread, which was perfect for Elton but not for me. I asked for rice but they didn’t have it. We had fish and shrimps, which Elton couldn’t get enough of.

After our late lunch, we tried to look for the exact place where GOT was shot. We took photos of the ocean. It was cold but who cares? I was in awe. The ocean and the walls were picturesque. After a while, a guy with a tray offered us pastries and “happy cake.” What makes it “happy” is hashish or hash. Elton bought a few bars of sweets, the regular kind of course, and asked the guy where we needed to go to see the blue boats I saw on Google and the GOT shoot location. The guy told us it was near the cafés a few meters away. We headed there and found a small street lined with artisan shops and inns. It was an artsy street. I bought a Berber plate (50 dirhams but was originally priced at 130). Elton was invited inside a Berber shop where we chatted with the owner. Elton wanted to buy silver rings but didn’t know how to haggle and so I haggled for him. The Berber guy was tough and said that I haggled like a Berber woman. We weren’t convinced with his prices and so we started to leave. Once outside, the man gently held Elton’s arm and told me to stay out of the shop as a joke because he couldn’t convince Elton to buy anything with me there. So I stayed outside and they talked in Italian. Moroccans speak a mixture of French and Arabic, by the way. There are a number of them who speak Italian as well. Elton can speak English, Italian, French, and a few other languages.

Elton kept looking at me, smiling, probably because the Berber guy was telling him I was too stingy. They struck a deal and I went inside. I swear I could’ve gotten those rings for much less. I ended up buying a silver ring with a big turquoise setting for 80 dirhams (P400 or 8 euros). And I don’t even use rings! That Berber guy sure knows how to sell his stuff! I ended up giving the ring to Elton. That would look nice on his girly fingers!

The Berber man seemed to have liked me and decided to dress me up as a Berber woman for our amusement. It was a fun experience. For a few minutes, I was Vanessa of Arabia. I wish I used kohl to make my eyes bigger and more Berber but my eyes are simply so “Ni hao.”

It was getting cold and we decided to look for a place to stay for the night. We searched online and decided to check the place out. There is a medina down the road. And it was lovely. The leather items here are also cheaper than those in Marrakesh. We didn’t get to the hotel we saw online. We saw a riad that looked nice as we strolled down the street. It was 500 dirhams per room (P2,500 or 50 euros). There are cheaper options in the area (and a lot of luxurious ones as well), but I personally prefered this one. Having booked an awful riad in Marrakesh, which Elton ended up paying for, I thought he deserved a nice place to rest for the night. This riad is called Maison du Sud. Parking is a bit far. The riad receptionist called a man who owns a cart to help us with our luggage. The service cost 20 dirhams (P100 or 2 euros)

Though the riad was right beside a busy street of the medina, it was peaceful at night. I think Essaouira is a very tranquil place, however bustling it becomes during the day. The medina is quite small for Moroccan standards and not as (beautifully) chaotic as Marrakesh, or Fes even. In fact, you know what, even if I can’t say that I’ve explored Morocco extensively (not even close!), I think I like Essaouira best. The combination of the ocean, the charming medina, and the artsy vibe you can sense but doesn’t get on your grill at every turn, just makes me feel nostalgic and romantic. Oh, but what of Fes, Oarzazate, Merzouga? It’s so hard to choose because Morocco is just breathtaking and sublime one would have to wonder why it’s not a popular tourist destination among Asians. Even Elton, who isn’t easily impressed, couldn’t believe how beautiful Morocco is.

We looked for a place that serves dinner. It was nine in the evening and a lot of the shops were closed. We found a nice restaurant that served couscous and rice. It was a good dinner. We headed to the riad after to rest.

I woke up early the next morning, determined to find the place where they shot GOT and see the blue boats that look so damn pretty in photos. At seven, I woke Elton up and we headed out in search of the place. Apparently, it was right beside the spot we were taking pictures from the day before. The hashish guy pointed us to the opposite direction! Now that I think about it, maybe it was because we didn’t buy his “happy” cake!

The morning breeze, the seagulls, the peace and quiet, with most shops still closed, made Essaouira heavenly. I saw the GOT shooting location and the blue boats (went live on FB, too). They look exactly like they do in photos.

A fisherman introduced himself and showed us around, explained how they fished, told anecdotes—in a mixture of Arabic, French, Italian, and English. Elton translated the fisherman’s words, while I translated to him what the fisherman wanted for the “tour.” Elton said nah, the man was just trying to show tourists around. Until we said goodbye and the man asked for some money. We gave him 40 dirhams, but I bet 20 would’ve sufficed. All’s well, it was a good morning. We headed back to the riad and had our free breakfast. We prepared for the day’s long trip to another GOT shooting location.

The man with the cart helped us back to the car. I bought some food to take on the road—pastries, chips, water, soda (around 100 dirhams or P500.00 or 10 euros). We started for Aït Benhaddou.

Elton’s speeding ticket.

Unfortunately, Elton drove a bit fast near a town center and a police officer with a radar asked for his license and the car’s documents. The ticket was worth 300 dirhams or P1,500. Time and again, there will be police officers on the road. Motorists will usually flash their lights if there is a police officer and you will be warned. Anyway, speed limits are reasonable and road condition is good, the view even better. I swear it.

I just had to post this one ’cause I love this shot by Elton, emoji by me to hide my gorgeous body. FHM might come knocking 😉

Still a great day for a road trip despite the ticket. As he drove, I sang along his weird playlist, from Dire Straits to Pavarotti, and an occasional Bon Jovi. Okay, okay, quit badgering me! I sang along only to Bon Jovi. Wouldn’t you, too, on a road trip while Jon-jon (we’re close ’cause we dated in high school) sings, “And I swore, I’d never let you go… Togetheeeer… foreveeeerrr… Never say goodbye! Never say goodbye”?

[The second group of photos and the speeding ticket photo belong to Elton.]

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