I met YCEW at the train station, and had a great time with them for the next two nights in Essuira. (Essaouira in French, but I personally think 4 vowels in a row is morally wrong, even in Hawaiian.) Took the Supratours busline out to our hotel, a very nicely furnished Hotel Al-Arboussas, with wrought iron beds, and really nifty lofts in each room that you could sleep in while your roommate took the larger bed below.
The main reason for our traveling out there, and thankfully not out to the desert in late June, was to ride camels. Being that Marraksh is now running 37 degrees, and the desert is even hotter, the Windy City of Africa, wind-surfing capitol of the continent, seemed like a much better idea. Essuira is also famous for it's Purple Isles of antiquity (above), now called Isle Mogador, where there are castle ruins, purple shells that were made into dye long ago, and Eleanora's Falcons.
First thing in the morning, the camel excursion, helpfully prepared for us by the Arboussas staff at 150 dirhams for a 1 hour ride. YCEW was very much looking forward to this, and they appeared to have had a great time. I however, have ridden camels before- and I'm not sure why I did it the second time earlier this year. Were we in the desert, in the middle of the heat, I told them I'd gladly walk. Camels are made for eating, not riding. However, they had only the hour, instead of the usual 6 hours on a desert trip. And I was pleasantly suprised to see they had horses here as well.
It had been a long while since I was on a horse, a Black Beauty, so I had to get my bearings again. (See hovertext.) He didn't want to always turn right and left, ocassionally looking back at me like, "You've got to be kidding. I'm turning when I want to turn, how I want to turn." To which I told him, "No, you must turn the way I want you to turn." But it seems I had a Berber horse, who didn't understand Arabic. Finally I got him to trot out to the camels and ride around them. To which he responded by partly rearing up on his hind legs and whinnying. Which, if you're not used to horses, is actually more scary than climbing a moving cliff above the clouds.
Strangely on the return, when I urged him on with my heels, a few times he decided on a canter instead of a trot. As this was my first time cantering, the mantra repeated in my helmetless head "Christopher Reeve. Christopher Reeve."
I cantered back to wait for the camel riders. They arrived, very refreshed. Not so their camels.
Later that day some took their first windsurfing lesson, and seemed to get up a number of times. The sheltered bay was ideal for this. We also wandered around the ship yards and the docks, before taking the bus and train back to Dar Baida (Casablanca in French).
My old roommate, Collin, took them out with the Kai Boardriding Tribe, a company that rents and shapes boards & teaches surfing for only 130 dirhams per hour (per person group rate). For most it was their first time surfing as well, but the cold water was pretty flat, with waves only about a meter high, and good for learning on.
We returned to the best pizza in Dar Baida (in my opinion), a thin crust place called Pizza & Panini near my house, and then quickly rushed to the train station for them to head out East to Fes. Unfortunately, three girls ran into repeated trouble. We waited for them unknowing what the trouble was- for we all had to take separate cabs to our respective sleeping areas, and then to the train station, and by law, only 3 are allowed per cab. I finally took a separate cab out to the main train station 25 minutes away, thinking that perhaps they had gone to the wrong station. No such luck. I finally reached them on the phone on my way back, to hear that, mesakin, poor things, they had been unable to enter the apartment for an hour as they couldn't figure out how to turn the key in the lock. So I told them to get a cab to "Tran Wazis", and headed back to the train station where everyone else was. After waiting for 40 minutes, we put everyone else on the train, except for me and Sam, and we headed back to the main station to look for the lost sheep. Sure enough, there they were, extremely gratified to see us. The taxi driver first took them to a shopping area in error, and then the wrong station. We managed to get them on the same train as the rest of YCEW, and they took the ride home after a very long day.