Seagulls natter, drifting on the morning breeze, salty and fresh. Old men, hunched and withered, dressed in colorful robes, cinched at the waist with a cord, push carts down the street. Occasionally they stop to talk with other men who lurk in the shadow-draped doorways of the Medina. My camera snaps with a mechanical click. Will it draw those faces, so exotic, out of the shadows and reveal themselves to me? At this early hour, when the silver moon still lounges in the sky, and the dark of night tickles the morning sky with dark blue, I thirst for both adventure and coffee.
Essaouira, nestled on the coast of Morocco, a few hours west of the frenetic bustle of Marrakesh, hugs the Atlantic Ocean giving the town a lazy seaside vibe that has appealed to writers, artists, poets, and musicians. People like Hemingway and Hendrix have spent time amongst its white walls and blue shuttered cafes. I can see why. After two weeks in Morocco, Essaouira speaks the most loudly to me. It stirs my soul and reminds me how much I miss the sound of my guitar, and the feel of the steel strings as they slap and twang under my fingers. Essaouira inspires me to create. I put on my headphones and listen to Little Wing as I wander deeper into the Medina. It seems fitting to listen to Hendrix here, where he spent so much time in the sixties.
I choose a cafe near the waterfront. It’s awnings, a faded orange-gold, flap in the morning breeze. Black wicker chairs with white cushions, long since turned the color of butterscotch, spread out along the grey cobbled lane. I chose a chair against the flecked plaster wall. It offers me a view of the waking city.
To my left, a few tables away, an old man sips his coffee. Silver hair peaks from beneath a weathered black cap. He places a cigarette in his mouth, lifts a lighter to the end, the twist of flint, a spark, and the glow of flame licks playfully. He draws deeply, tendrils of smoke creeping skyward, vanishing before my eyes. I study the man's face. It is dark, not dark like those from the sub-Sahara with their beautiful ebony skin, his is dark like a Tuscan landscape: full of rich, earthy tones and gently kissed with gold. It reminds me of a lingering sunset over rolling pastoral hills. Deep creases run across his face hinting at both age and wisdom and perhaps a life working outside. Here, in Morocco, where the sun always shines, it’s hard to tell. He draws on his cigarette again relaxing into his chair.
I relax back in my chair too. The speaker above my head crackles with static. A song begins to play like a record, worn and scratched, hissing and popping. I recognize the tune. It’s Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin, one of my favorite. I listen deeply, loving the imperfections of the speaker. The sound feels worn, like a pair of boots where years of miles have changed the stiff leather into rich, supple material rich with age. This is what Essourra feels like, a town which is rich with age and only improving with its imperfections.