We’re lucky enough to be staying in a beautiful riad owned by Andy and Tim, two Brighton friends who set off on their own Essaouiran adventure. Their house, Dar Sabon is wonderfully managed by Agne as a B&B. €35 a night and worth every penny (cent).
You know when you’ve eaten too much when your host says: ‘Haven’t you done well’ on seeing that you’ve scoffed all the breakfast. Put it in front of us and we’ll eat it.
Today we shopped with old friends. Unis is our slipper man who has kept my entire family and friends in babouches for 13 years. This time the grandtwins get their inaugural pair. Unis’ shop is on the edge of the spice market off the main street.
We also found my oldest Essaouiran friend, Talib, who I met when he was 17 in 2001. He is now 30. Despite a gap of 5 years since we last met, he welcomes us with open arms and genuine pleasure. Talib has been to England for the first time this year to work on Moroccan markets in Peterborough and Burgess Hill – he was only a few miles up the road from me and I didn’t know. Talib says he liked Primark!
Like many Moroccans, Talib speaks multiple languages; I have read that they have a particular knack for it. He’s also a fantastic cook and has made me many a tagine. Again, like many Moroccans I’ve met, Talib has a fantastic sense of humour and a really silly, playful nature. People here often seem very willing to have a joke with you. This is especially true if you learn just a few basic words of Arabic and ask people what things are in Arabic. So few people bother, but it is hugely welcomed. I learned the word for bread from a street bread seller and ended up selling bread with him from his barrow. Keith and I have been going to our local Co-op for almost two years and have yet to crack a smile from most of the staff there. And not a diagnosis between them as far as I know.
I made friends with a very cheeky cat who put his paw in Keith’s tagine and ate a home made jammy dodger. I also made the mistake of drinking mint tea, which has caffeine in it as well as a truckload of sugar. I know this because I drank some the other day. As a person extremely sensitive to caffeine this makes me a particular idiot. A very talkative and panicky one at that.
We wandered around La Skala, the walled, sea facing part of the city where artists and craftspeople sell their stuff.
Today’s bargain dinner was a delicious sardine stew in a bread loaf: £1.30 – for two of us. Eating well on a budget is so easy here.