Capture the Colour: Essaouira

blue fishing boats in Essaouira

blue fishing boats in Essaouira

Morocco is such a photogenic country, but it is far more complex than the brochure-speak of the blue skies above the Atlas, the pink walls of the Marrakech medina and the vast yellow wastes of the Sahara. This is a post about the colours of Essaouira, a small artsy fishing port on the Atlantic coast, where I have spent a lot of time over the last year or so. This post gives an insight into Essaouira through five colours: blue, green, yellow, white and red.

Essaouira, in south Morocco, was once the port through which the bounty of the camel trains was exported and it even served as the port for Timbuktu. Today, Essaouira is still a bustling fishing port and you can eat delicious sardines and other fish literally straight off the boat.  It is also a haven for Moroccan and foreign artists, who have galleries in the labyrinthine streets of the UNESCO World Heritage listed medina (walled city). The vibe in Essaouira is considerably more chilled-out than in bigger Moroccan cities. The whitewashed walls; the typical blue doors and shutters of the buildings and the fact that one whole side of the medina is open to the sea (and the Atlantic breeze, les Alizés in French), make the place much airier and brighter than, for example the maze of the Fes medina. Essaouira is also attracts watersports and world music enthusiasts. For more information on Essaouira, click here.

My enduring memory from my first visit to Essaouira in 2001 is of the little blue fishing boats.  They chug 5-6 hours into the Ocean each night and 5-6 hours back.  The work of the fishermen is hard and the swell of the Atlantic is dangerous.  This picture was taken last June on a trip which changed my life.  I am so excited that now, more than 10 years after my first visit, I am planning to go and live there! I will be able to eat Atlantic sardines, hake, bream and sea bass fresh from the quayside! Read about eating freshly grilled fish in Essaouira here.

traditional zellij mosaic

traditional zellij mosaic

Green is the colour of islam; of mosque roofs and minarets.  This zellij mosaic is adapted from a traditional Islamic design, based on geometry to avoid the forbidden human form.  I commissioned it from a local artisan in Essaouira and it now has pride of place behind the sink in my kitchen in Scotland.  Read the full story of the Moorish Mosaic here.

The world is full of coffee table books of Moroccan design and architecture featuring delicately curved wooden doors and rich, colourful tiles and ceramics.  These doors in the port of Essaouira caught my eye because yellow is an uncommon sight in the town and because they are eschew arches, tiles and glazing for functionality.  But, as if the artisan couldn’t resist a little decoration, he has added the anchors.  As their form suggests, behind these doors is all the equipment required by the fishermen to keep their boats maintained and their nets full! There are plenty of photos of more traditional doors here.

yellow doors at Essaouira port

yellow doors at Essaouira port

I was spoilt for choice when selecting a ‘white‘ photograph for this collection.  The whitewashed medina walls?  The ubiquitous seagulls?  The white-tipped waves so eagerly chased by kite surfers? The little fluffy clouds which scuttle in off the Atlantic? In the end, it had to be this iconic image of the Essaouira medina featuring… all of the above! This has been the location for many films and TV shows over the years.  (Do you recognise it as the set of Kingdom of Heaven?) Read about the Moroccan film industry here.

And, I realised while compiling this post, red is a common colour in Morocco. Should I choose the colourful gowns of the gnaoui musicians in Essaouira’s annual festival? Or the pyramids of paprika, cayenne and harissa in the souks? Or even the piles upon piles of traditional Berber carpets?  In the end, I chose this photo because it represents a more domestic side of Moroccan life – one which isn’t often seen by tourists. These are the tassels sown on to the hood of a woman’s jellaba (a shapeless, ankle-length cover-all) and which bob behind each housewife as she goes about her daily chores.  Read my story of seeking out jellaba buttons here.

Essaouira medina from the port

Essaouira medina from the port

I hope you like my selection of photos.  These were put together for the Capture the Colour competition being run by Travelsupermarket.com.  If you like my photos of Morocco, you can see plenty more here.

One of the rules of the competition is to recommend 5 other bloggers, so here goes:

Mandy Sinclair at Why Morocco? – because if she can do it, then so can I!  Thanks for the inspiration, Mandy!
Cheri Lucas at Writing Through the Fog – for the wonderful words and pictures
Shawn and Suzanne at The Lost Art of Hitchhiking – for finding me when I was finding myself
Andy Jarosz at 501 Places – for advising and inspiring me at WTM2011
Elena Levon at Live simply, travel lightly, love passionately and don’t forget to breathe – for travelling so thoroughly in Morocco and everywhere you go!

red jellaba tassles

red jellaba tassles

 

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers who have followed me on my blogging journey over the last year.  My life has changed incredibly during that time and as you’ll have guessed, Morocco has really stolen my heart!  I’ll be moving there for a longer period soon, and have started this website and an associated Facebook page to mark the occasion.  I hope you’ll accompany me on my journey!

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