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Essaouira

What is going on with those goats?!? How do they get up there? And it looks like they’ll fall getting down!! Well it has to do with argon nuts–the nut that produces argon oil and is prized around the world in hair and beauty products.

The argon nut is hard to access. There’s a husk that must be removed BEFORE cracking the shell and getting to the nut. Well, goats love the husks. They will go to great lengths–and heights–to eat them. Sometimes argon oil is made with nuts after the goats have removed the husks, but it affects the quality. Nobody wants oil that smells like goat saliva.

I didn’t realize argon oil is edible! I purchased some argon oil for salad dressings. It has a lovely, nutty taste because the nuts are toasted before separating. And one of the spreads I’ve enjoyed at breakfast is “Berber Nutella” which is ground almonds, argon oil, and honey.

We were on our way to Essaouira, a popular coastal getaway. The Medina in Essaouira is relatively new, from the 18th century, and our riad was situated there. We also had appointments to participate in a centuries old tradition, the hammam.

The hammam is a significant weekly–or even daily– social activity for most Moroccans. These type of baths are prominent in the Muslim world and are public baths where women can speak freely and companionably scrub one another’s backs. Our hammam was not public, although Whitney and I were together, and enjoyed much giggling with the women attending us. I’m not sure why they started giggling–I think something I mispronounced–but giggling is contagious.

We lay on a heated slab of marble and the ladies poured buckets of water over us, then applied oil and let us bake for a time. When they returned we received the bucket treatment again–it’s so delicious–and the vigorous scrubbing began. Every inch of our body was scrubbed to perfection. I think there was one more bake and bucket treatment but I got lost in the moment. After being wrapped in towels we rested before a massage. And the best thing? When the massage is finished, they let us relax for a few minutes! I hate having to jump up and get dressed as soon as my massage over.

The docks are alive with activity as fisherman return with their catches and hawk the seafood. You can even select something and have it cooked nearby.

We enjoyed some delicious seafood. The famous Moroccan pastille dish is served in Essaouira with seafood instead of chicken. I tried a traditional soup that is served with hard boiled eggs and dates. And I sampled more of the various appetizer salads I love.

But the highlight of our time in Essaouira was enjoying Gnaoua or Gnawa music. Wikipedia says “Gnawa is both an ethnic group and a cultural tradition that can be traced back to the slaves brought to Morocco.” This music is well-preserved, as evidenced by how many Moroccans were singing along. It has a melancholic feel that invites traditional dancing.

But there’s this: the musician wears a cap with a tassel on it, and keeps the tassel rotating effortlessly while singing and playing! We borrowed the hat and tried it–not easy. In fact we all failed miserably. I’m getting some of these hats to take home, and I’m going to see who can swing the tassels while hula-hooping!

One more thing. Mohammed arranged for Whitney to take the stage!! Suddenly, the musicians left the stage and someone said “Whitney, you’re up!” She’s an international celebrity now. The crowd insisted on an encore! I think I’ll be her manager and start a Go Fund Me so we can tour Europe in luxury hotels. Dig deep into your pockets!

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