To reach Essaouira from Fes is 'almost' impossible. If you ask travelers or travel offices, there aren't direct buses available. Most suggest traveling through Marrekech, which requires staying overnight and connecting the following day, plus 13 hours on the road. I was beside myself, not wanting to visit Marrekech twice, (I knew I'd return to catch my train north to Asilah). My luck never fails me. Turns out, the boyfriend of my hostel's manager in Fes lives in Essaouira, and she uses a local direct overnight bus! Direct, good. Overnight? Bad! Very bad. Overnights always kill my sleep patterns, but it would get me there in half the time, while 'sleeping' and not losing daytime or a night of accommodation costs, and for less than half the tourist price too! I think I paid 150 dirham for the entire trip.
This local bus left around 11:30pm, and took 13 hours. Yes. It was long. It was dirty. Thank god for the darkness, as I couldn't see the condition of the bus, except for the strong odor of stale decades-old hair oil seething through the headrest area of my seat. I used ear plugs to block out the noise of nocturnal locals, curled up with my sunglasses over my eye mask, and tried sleeping. Periodically, I would wake up to the curious stares of my aisle neighbor who seemed more concerned about watching me sleep than getting his own rest. Overnight buses are never my favorite, but for 150 dirham, it did the job. I woke up to the worst morning breath being blown towards me from the seat behind, the smell of someone who rarely ever brushed their teeth, not to mention a deathly cough shaking my seat every couple minutes. It was horrendous. I turned around to offer my last piece of gum, and the old man cheekily smiled back at me, revealing a super toothless grin. Not sure how that ended up backfiring. I still had over 5 hours left. In the daylight, I could see nut shells blanketing the aisle, and quite a collection of oil and dirt stains on the seats. The bus was old. After sunrise, it turned into the local transit system to deliver people to nearby villages. Farmers with large grain bags would throw them in the lower hold, and climb on board for a while. There must not have been much space because a few people climbed on board with the bags resting next to them. It made for some interesting last hours on the bus.
We randomly stopped in a small village bus station, and I frantically tried getting an english speaking person to tell me how long the bus was stopping. I had a bladder reaching fullness. (I knew that toilets would be questionable, so I started the journey pretty dehydrated.) I started nearing the bathrooms, but the stench of fermented urine reached my nose and simultaneously, I saw stacks of small water pitchers (aka Moroccan toilet paper) being passed out near the entrance. I decided I didn't need to pee that bad! This might be TMI for some people, but these are real travel issues: I was wearing snug yoga pants for warmth, and knowing it would be an eastern toilet AKA hole in the floor, I decided I wouldn't have enough time to get them off, find somewhere clean to hang my garments, relieve myself, and put them back on hygienically before getting back to the bus before it would leave. . .
In other news, once we arrived to Essaouira, I hired a local cab to take me to the medina. My bladder survived (incase you were wondering)
I loved Essaouira. It's a relaxed coastal beach town full of cracked paint walls, vendors lining the streets and seagulls soaring above with the wind blowing up from the shore. Pastries seemed especially prominent in Essaouira. Over the week that I stayed in this lovely town, almost daily, I visted the famous Pâtisserie Driss for tea and pastries. If not, there were two pastry carts posted close to my accommodation, which meant trying almost every kind available (with help from fellow hostel friends participating in a group share everyday!)
There were two main pedestrian roads, the first had stunning archways lined by "local" goods; generally selling produce, clothing, and olives.
The second, all of your standard tourist stalls with souvenirs, shoes, leather goods etc.
The main attraction for tourism in Essaouira is relaxation and surfing. . .
I had been pretty stoked to learn how to surf, and despite being November, I knew the southern area of Morocco should be pretty warm. The water was legitimately brown - it's like being in the desert . . . on the water. Immediately, all hopes of wanting to learn how to surf or getting my last swim of the year diminished as I sat watching the brown tides rolling in. Yuck. I didn't even dip my toe in the water.
The old port was much more photogenic, but I only visited it once, mostly due to the overwhelming stench of fish and rotting blood/flesh. This was probably the only waterfront town that I haven't "enjoyed" the water/beach.
There's a stand outside the port, which I call a "meet and eat" restaurant. You can choose your fish or meet your live crab/lobster and play with it before having them cook it for you. . .
Or, you can opt for some pomegranate juice next door. . .
I really enjoyed Essaouira. There were so many unique characteristics beyond what can be found in other parts of Morocco. Below is a hodge podge of things that captured my attention :)
Last but not least, the western world is rapidly moving into better technology, yet most Moroccans still have flip phones, reflective of the poorer economy and lack of resources like Amazon that connect people to consumer products. This room-sized store is the closest people can access "new" upgrades in Essaouira. Naturally, modern day luxuries can be found in larger cities, but as most people shop for clothing among the same stalls where they buy produce and their daily bread, you can be sure this is their only source for new tech!