It took us eight hours to drive the 265 miles north, past Agadir, to the coastal resort of Essaouira (sounds a bit like Essa-wearer). The road was narrow and winding but with spectacular views of the ocean as we rounded each bend; this was a surfers’ paradise.
Our campsite was about 2 km from the town, a pleasant walk along the beach.
Once we had completed our usual port and fishing fleet inspection, we explored the old part of town before relaxing with a freshly squeezed orange juice in one of the many cafes in the main square. Although it had been chilly overnight, about nine degrees, it was very warm sitting iin the sunshine.
We had lunch at one of the many outdoor fish restaurants with barbecues. The seafood was displayed at the front of the restaurant, the fish were either alive or very fresh. You made your choice, agreed a price, and then the fish was perfectly cooked and served to your table one item at a time. There were six of us eating, we had big prawns, small prawns, followed by crab and calamari, then sea urchins, bream, bass, John Dory and finally red snapper. We ordered some wine, ten minutes later two bottles arrived wrapped up in newspaper and secreted in a carrier bag. We couldn’t keep the bottles on the table, they had to be hidden under the table. It was one of our most expensive meals and cost just over £25 a head.
The town was a major tourist centre and was full of European visitors. Vast hotels flanked the wide promenade and the sea front bristled with cafes and restaurants but you could tell you were still in Africa by the state of the paving – acres and acres of fancy tiles but so many broken or sitting at bizarre angles that it looked as if someone had laid them on a newly ploughed field. The beach was enormous, they offered rides on camels and horses as well as dune buggy rides – but there was still plenty of space for the locals to mark out three or four football pitches. Some of the young footballers played with bare feet.