High, Dry and Hassle-Free


This blog entry about the events of Thursday, June 24, 2004 was originally posted on June 30, 2004.

DAY 250:  In the 1960s, Essaouira, the relaxed ocean city on the north west coast of Morocco, was a hippie haven that attracted the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens, Bob Marley and their faithful long-haired disciples.  Nowadays, the hippies are gone — along with their big clouds of hash smoke — but Essaouira still retains its cool, relaxed vibe with ocean breezes and welcoming cooler temperatures than that of the cities inland.  A new generation of music goers go there now, both locals and foreigners, more so in late June when the city hosts the annual Festival d’Essaouira, a four-day music festival with international appeal.

OUR SHARED GRAND TAXI STOPPED at a police checkpoint just outside the Essaouira city limits.  Canadian Sebastian and I had been riding for the past couple of hours in the old but functional Mercedes with a young Moroccan couple in the backseat and two young Moroccan women up front with the driver.  Everyone got out of the car to furnish the police with their national ID cards.  A cop approached me and asked in Arabic for my documents — something that didn’t happen to paler-skinned Sebastian.  When I reached for my American passport, it caught the officer off guard. 

“[Oh, you’re a foreigner?]” he said in French.


He motioned for me to re-enter the car, hassle-free.  Meanwhile, the locals had their bags searched in the trunk.

I continued to reap the benefits of a double-identity of a dark-skinned, Moroccan-looking foreigner.  We were dropped of in town a cross-town walk away from where all the recommended hotels were.  Much to our chagrin, we weren’t really hassled by touts like we had suspected. 

“Wow, where is everybody?” I questioned.  If we were anywhere else that we’d been so far, we would have been rushed by guys trying to lead us somewhere already.

“It’s because I’m here with my ‘Moroccan guide,’” Sebastian joked, patting me on the back.  “Except for your big backpack.”

“Well, I’m carrying it for you.”

Realizing that during the festival most of the accommodations in the book would be full, we asked the tourist bureau for a recommendation.  Sebastian did the questioning in his fluent French like he had done for most of the time I’d been traveling with him.  The woman there recommended the Hotel Agadir on the main pedestrian mall and upon our arrival there, we snagged the last room — available only because a previous prospective client couldn’t furnish a passport for identification since it was held up at a rental car dealer.

THE BIG ACTS OF THE FESTIVAL D’ESSAOUIRA performed on one of two main stages, each in a different part of the small city.  Sets became around 4:30 when the temperature cooled down a bit.  After bumping into and chatting briefly to Hendrik and Tina (from the camel tour in the Sahara) and Jess (from Djebel Toubkal), we caught the tail end of an act called “Barry,” which despite my premonition of it being Barry Manilow or a tribute band to the late Barry White, was a Moroccan ska band that played their hearts out on stage in front of a crowd of hundreds of Moroccans, from the religious types in Muslim attire to the Moroccan youth wearing jeans and t-shirts, all moshing along to the rhythm.

“It’s amazing to have an entire festival like this without alcohol,” Sebastian said.  Alcohol in Morocco, like in most predominantly Muslim countries, wasn’t normally consumed by the masses.

“The difference between a festival with alcohol and one without is that people will remember it,” I said. 

With a lack of readily available liquor, we noticed that perhaps a lot of Moroccan youth turned to something else a bit more “herbal,” if you know what I mean.  While wandering one of Essaouira’s many shop-lined streets, we went into one selling shoes (picture above) to find out the price of a pair Sebastian’s friend wanted.  Some guy came in, seemingly totally high, frantically playing with the shoes and cheering them on.  “Wooo!” he’d go, laughing.  “Korean?” he asked me.

“Uh, Filipino.”

“Philippines!  Woooo!”  He tried on shoes he had no intention of buying, laughing the whole time, until he was asked to leave.

“[People are crazy,]” the shopkeeper said.

THE SOUNDS OF CUBAN MUSIC FILLED THE AIR near the port as the sky went dark and the festival got into full swing.  Hundreds flocked to the big outdoor venues to party the night and to watch the musicians and their back-up dancers wow the masses.  Jumping men in fezzes took to one stage and after, women shook their booties at the other — a pleasantry for guys like Sebastian and me since during the entire festival, a huge majority of the partygoers were men — most of the women around seemed to just be there to look after their children.  Men not only held hands and greeted each other with kisses like I had seen in other Muslim countries, now they danced together, sometimes while sitting atop their buddy’s shoulders, the way Western girls mount their boyfriends in a pool to play chicken during Spring Break — not that there’s anything wrong with it. 

I suppose in a laid-back place like Essaouira where there’s a lack of alcohol, people will resort to other things.

Next entry: Laid Back In My Galabiyya

Previous entry: Heels On The Hill

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “High, Dry and Hassle-Free”

  • :O first again.

    Posted by Alyson  on  06/30  at  11:27 AM

  • Nice shoe shots!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/30  at  12:13 PM

  • cool shoes…do all the court jesters get their shoes there?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/30  at  03:43 PM

  • The shoes, its gotta be the shoes… just look at all the roach stompers!

    MARKYT:  Guess I’m movin up again.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/30  at  04:21 PM

  • the shoes are great and you so lucked out with the hotel room!

    Posted by Liz  on  06/30  at  06:01 PM

  • So, if you were to get a pair of shoes for each color of the rainbow, how much would that have set you back? i.e. what’re prices like in Morocco - or what were prices like?

    Congrats on lucking out with the room - what a rockstah move!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/01  at  05:17 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Laid Back In My Galabiyya

Previous entry:
Heels On The Hill


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