From Essaouira to El Jadida.

We left Essaouira and drove north along the coastal route.

For most of the way, we saw simple beach villages, with stone or concrete houses, and farmers working small pieces of land by hand plowing or with the help of two donkeys or two bulls.

Along the way young people selling conch shells, ran to offer us large shells as they saw us approaching.

We stopped at the picturesque town of Walidia, (also spelled Oualidia,) which is a beach resort with a small ocean front lined with small hotels and some restaurants.

On the ocean, some fishermen had a stand selling raw oysters, and bundles of clams and mussels.
Local people on scooters rushed to meet you at the parking lot, to offer you fresh seafood at discount prices, before you enter any of the restaurants.

Despite the fresh offerings, we did enter one of the restaurants, that looked charming at first glance, and had a very mediocre lunch while the owner fought with her employees and stormed out of the kitchen.

She stopped once by our table, looked at the uneaten food on our plates, and mumbled in French that she was happy that everything was OK… good…

As we headed north along the coast, the soil along the road became so rocky, and so devoid of fertile elements, that the farmers resorted to farming the soft land right at the edge of the beaches.

It was very interesting to see how they grow crops right at the edge of the shores of the ocean.

In Ireland as well as in NZ, I saw people growing crops and cultivating pastures right by the ocean, but those were on top of cliff plateaus, high over the ocean.
I never saw agriculture farming done right on the shore level.

But I guess that this is a necessity in this area, where the fields in this region have poor rocky soil due to overgrazing, poor agriculture methods and strong trade winds that depleted and exposed the surface of the bedrock.

In some places, they created water channels, to divert the ocean.
This created wetlands, with the intention to desalinate the salt water and use it for watering the cultivated fields.
The lagoon created has been transformed into salt works, creating a small peninsula that protects the salt works from the ocean, further behind the fields.

As we neared the town of Safi, we came upon a few large roadside livestock markets.

It was an amazing sight.
Most of the men were dressed in Moroccan Jellabas, with the pointy hood hats on, holding a single sheep by the ear, the by the horn or by a hobbled leg.

They were standing there, until somebody who was impressed by the size or by the look of their sheep, came over and they started a dialog of negotiation.

If they agreed and a sale was made, the seller would help place the sheep in their cart, or in the trunk of their car, tying it with a rope and leaving just enough space to allow the poor sheep to breathe.

We saw these Saturday livestock markets further along the coast in other small towns, with many individuals selling one or two goats or sheep by the road.

Many people were riding horse drawn carriages.
And often we saw the back of these carriages, filled with passengers and a sheep bought in the market.
There were also scooter carts, with kids holding a single goat by the horn, or a sheep by its ear, taking them to or from the market.

When we saw the city of Safi from the distance, I was overcome with a sense of dread.
The whole city was covered with pollution, coming out of dozens of smoke stacks.

To our dismay, major industrial plants and factories, lined the shores of this city.
Large chemical plants, gas refineries, phosphate plants, a power plant, fertilizer plant, all were situated right on the ocean.
I even saw a large pipe depositing brown grey waste water into the ocean.

The area has also a very large sardines canning factory.
Morocco is the largest sardine exporter in the world.
Most of the sardines are being processed and canned right here on this shore.

We veered away from the ocean and passed through a busy produce market in Safi.
People were so densely crowded into these markets, buying freshly baked bread, produce and some of the largest and best pomegranates I’ve seen in Morocco.

I felt disheartened and wanted to get out of the smell that filled my lungs with an unidentifiable mix of pollution and chemicals… So we drove out of Safi until the ocean looked clean again.

Finding a hotel in El Jadida, proved a little hard.
Most of the places looked unappealing.
We came upon a small hotel called Art Suites.

They offered spacious one bedroom apartments for a reasonable price and were centrally located near the beach, the port and the old Portuguese Medina.

The friendly manager showed us around, making chit chat…….He said he thought that NZ just lost the rugby world cup games….

NO!……We said….. NO!!!! We WON!

He said: Yes….sorry, sorry….. You beat the French…. He said this with a smile… (Morocco was occupied by the French for a long time)

He said that the NZ All Blacks are real warriors……they are like Gladiators…. how they do the Haka dance…….. with their arms….. and guttural voices……. He said he absolutely loved it….

We took a room there and went for dinner and a long walk along Avenue Mohammad V, which is lined with cafes and restaurants.
I was craving Crepes with Nutella since Essaouira… And indeed they were just as yummy as I imagined them to be.

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