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Essaouria, Jimi Hendrix, and Castles in the Sand

Evening on the Balcony

Fresh air from the Atlantic Ocean blows into our lungs as we settle into the beach town of Essaouria. We find a room with a balcony overlooking the bay, where people kite-surf during season. Nothing has been really inexpensive in Morocco, but being here in the off-season provides some good deals. Yes, I can see why Jimi Hendrix would hang here, and how it inspired him to write, “Castles in the Sand.”

Hendrix’s “Castles in the Sand”

After the madness and mayhem of the larger Moroccan cities, where venders constantly call and tug at your sleeve, and people elbow each other through enormous, smoke-filled crowds, Mare and I savor the sound of the ocean. We love the loneliness. The most difficult task we have today is to go to the Medina and purchase bread, fruit, cheese, and beer – at the one and only alcohol store in the entire town. Of course we will find it! We learn that beer is forbidden in the Koran, but rif (marijuana) is not mentioned thus…not an infraction for a Muslim. I’m glad that they can relax once in a while.


I turn down several offers to purchase kif, hash and opium, still not quite comfortable with the scene. We hear about scams and rip-offs, and even set-ups to get arrested by the police. We love to visit new places, but a Moroccan prison is not on the list. Traveling in this country is hard enough without adding additional stress and paranoia. We sneak beer, and feel like heroin addicts doing that. Tourists get a pass on the beer, albeit not a friendly one, but this country is nothing like back in the days when it inspired Hendrix and Graham Nash.…not even close.


When we see hoards of seagulls flying by the docks, we head down to watch fishermen unload their catch. Sardines, crabs, eels, and types of fish we have never met before draw some of the largest cats I have ever seen. When fishermen have a good catch, everybody’s happy.

Everyone eats well!

We decide to chill-out on our balcony for three nights. Sunny weather, no harsh winds, and no traffic noise provide the oasis we seek. We get a whole new backpack wardrobe from the laundry service and catch-up on some internet stuff. We would enjoy a longer stay here, at Hotel Miramar, alas; the downside of a rental car is that you have to return it. Besides, people are starting to recognize us.

Leaving Essaouria

Back into the car, we hump it up the coast to the town of Azemmour, but not without first downing two dozen fresh oysters for lunch, in the small city of Oualidia. A definite advantage of having a rental car comes in all of the stops you can make along the way. I even taste raw sea urchin, as an independent vendor hands it to me, but decide not to purchase any. I don’t feel right driving around with sea urchins in my backseat. In Azemmour, we stay inside the Medina at “Riad Azama.” The owner tells us how he renovated this old house, and the place truly shows off the crafted woodwork and tiles. I hear him yell at the receptionist for not offering us tea upon our arrival. But, to tell the truth…we are pretty full of Medina’s, Kasbahs, Riads and Castles in the sand. We feast on fresh bread and cheese from our bag of goodies. From the Riad’s terrace, we see the tops of old Medina houses, covered with satellite dishes, and catch a glimpse of the river, running into the sea…eventually.

Riad Azama

We drive hard the next day, and talk ourselves out of a traffic ticket for speeding. Of course, we get lost in a few large towns, like Rabat and Kenitra, and become happy over little things, such as finding a smooth toll-road where the speed limit is 120 kilometers per hour. Our destination town of Assilah, just outside of Tangiers where we will turn in the car tomorrow, seems to us as just another town full of hustlers. It rains and turns cold. Again, I get lots of offers to purchase drugs. I guess I look pretty ragged from travel exhaustion, hair growing from everywhere besides my head, so perhaps they think I need some dope. Yep, when things look like “just another town,” it is time to go. We just know.

Today I sit in Tarifa, Spain, after a fast ferry ride from Tangiers. Mare catches food poisoning from a meal of Octopus. Imagine that. After all of our travels in Africa eating everything, everywhere, in less than sanitary conditions, she gets sick in Spain. At least we relax in a clean hotel, and even better, in a country much more travel friendly to us than Morocco seems.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ann #

    Mare is collecting quite a list of “souvenirs” from your adventure.

    Wonderful descriptions, Ron. I enjoy your writing. Sometimes it sounds like you are writing a song. Ann

    December 15, 2009
    • Hi Ann,

      Thanks for your kind compliments. Yes, my writing often comes from a song that’s stuck in my head. I think they make medication for that!


      December 16, 2009
  2. Hope Marilynn is feeling better…I’d blame it all on Ron!!

    All is well here… you both are missed at the Club.. (Marilynn more than Ron, tho) HA!!

    I certainly am enjoying the readings of your adventures!

    Hurry home…


    December 15, 2009
    • Marilynn #

      Hi Skip! The gym and all the people there are one of the parts of my life I miss most. Plus I need a work out very, very bad. Can’t wait to see everyone and get back into shape. Give my love to everyone and wish them all a happy holiday season. We most likely will see you all in early 2010! Love, Marilynn

      PS: I hope you have shared blog info w/anyone interested like maybe Yolanda, Kevin, Dan, etc…. XXOO

      December 16, 2009
    • Skip,

      Man, I need the health club in a bad way! See you probably sometime in January. I’ll need a work-out even worse then.


      December 16, 2009
  3. Jeff Trollinger #

    Hey Bubba…..

    Glad you are having fun.


    December 15, 2009
    • Hi Trolley,

      “Fun” would not be the exact word I’d use to describe this. Although it is fun, it comes with lots of exhaustion, facination, and humor for us. Get your sailboat reservations!


      December 16, 2009
  4. Carole #

    After reading all your blogs (the latest just now) I was going to comment how neither of you seem to have gotten sick, but that won’t be necessry now. Hope it was brief!

    December 15, 2009
    • Marilynn #

      I think the last time I threw up was when I was in Uzbekistan. That was over 10 years ago! Oh well, it only lasted one night. I am up and ready and raring to go now. But it is getting very COLD here, even snowing in parts of Spain. May need to break down and buy some warmer clothes. We were much more prepared for Saharan and subSaharan Africa. If only the State Dept was not so insistent we not go to Mali. We would be there now. In the warm. With Al-Queda kidnappers…. no maybe this is best. XXOO M

      December 16, 2009
  5. Mary Walensa #

    Hi Marilynn and Ron!
    Sorry I didn’t write sooner, but I have been keeping up with your adventures. Most of your travels sound quite harrowing to me, but I know that’s what gets your adrenaline going! Thanks for the great descriptions and pictures of the people and places – wish I were there (NOT!). Wishing you a Merry Christmas. Stay safe.

    December 16, 2009
    • Marilynn #

      So good to hear from you Mary and we are so thrilled that you are traveling w/us! This has been quite the experience. It will take months for me to figure out exactly what I have learned and where I go from here…. It sure ain’t probation!

      Happy Holidays to you and Ron, and best wishes for a glorious New Year! Love, Marilynn

      December 20, 2009
  6. Christi #

    This whole account of yours has been truly memorable. Thanks for sharing it. And also for all the pictures of FOOD!

    December 16, 2009
    • Marilynn #

      I knew you would appreciate the food!! I did too until our last stop in Tarifa………….

      December 20, 2009
  7. Tammy #

    After all of the places you two have been I can’t believe you were not sick from something before. I hope you are recovering. Is it time for you guys to come home yet? Your trip at times has given me anxiety lol. I the lighter side no hussle and bussle over the holidays. hugs xxoo

    December 16, 2009
    • Marilynn #

      Ron cooked mussels last night and I was able to eat them so I guess I am back on the sea food and that is a good sign. 🙂

      We will be home shortly after the New Year. For now we are in a lovely apartment on the southern coast of Spain. Ron is happy to be able to cook and I am happy to be able to hike. Life is good!

      December 20, 2009
  8. Ron, Marilynn…all from the Club send there best..
    Yolanda is taking her niece to “New York City” this week!!
    I am training with Bob…lost about 10 or 11 lbs since Nov 10.
    We all are missing you both… Patrick is waiting to get you back in training, Ron.
    Shirley opened a new Law Office…and Gene is her “Secretary”..

    Hurry home… We all miss you

    Merry Christmas…Have a SAFE, sorta sober New Years.

    December 17, 2009
    • Hi Skip,

      Thanks for the update and congratulaions on the weight loss! Yes, I need a Patrick work-out in the worse way. Geno as a secretary? Now, that’s scary!

      Best Wishes,


      December 20, 2009
    • Marilynn #

      OMG – Yolanda is probably hitting that big storm!! Good for you w/the training and the weight loss! We won’t recognize you. Can’t wait to get back into the gym. Enjoy the holidays and thanks for being such a great “blog buddy!” XOXOX

      December 20, 2009

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