Thursday 27th May, Asilah, Morocco.
Another glorious summer morning in my own little seaside paradise. Asilah is growing on me every day, although if I wax lyrical about this little town, don't build an image in your head of the perfect idyllic beachfront village. It really isn't. As much as anything, I'm just loving my little room here on the rooftop in the fresh air. I'm loving the mint tea, although I suspect my stomach is still adjusting to all that sugar! And everything's so cheap- especially after England- so I can relax and take my time here, even though I have less than zero dollars in the bank! A couple of nights ago, I decided to try one of the restaurants, instead of the little cafe I normally frequent. So I sat at a table across the street, two or three doors down from my cafe. When I ordered a mint tea from my waiter, he simply hollered the order at a waiter up the street, and my mint tea arrive momentarily, from my usual cafe, but at twice the price! Seemingly, mint tea is something of a specialty, and the restaurants don't even bother with it, satisfied to have it delivered from the cafe and make their few dirham on top. That one cafe serves a number of restaurants along the strip, which keeps the waiter busy, I can tell you!
The town itself is not particularly beautiful, by most traveller's standards. The beach is a short walk out of the centre of town, and isn't really anything to write home about (especially if home is Australia!) In town here, the walls of the old medina are built on a rocky shore, and the seafront is dominated by the recent construction of one of those sea walls built from huge funny shaped pieces of concrete all just tossed on top of each other. A groin, perhaps they call it. The groin creates a small inlet so the fishing boats can dock safely. In the early evenings, it's worth a short walk along the waterfront to see the fishermen selling their day's catch, all manner of strange looking fish, crustaceans, and huge vicious looking eels. After dark, the fishermen trundle their barrows up and down the restaurant-lined Rue Hassan II*, pitching their fare to the restauranteurs and tourists alike.
Speaking of tourists, Asilah is supposed to be a popular tourist destination. Yet I could count the 'tourists' that I've seen, on one hand. Perhaps a lot of the tourists are themselves Moroccans, and not immediately as obviously a tourist as say, I am! Asilah is laid back but still, almost every time I go for a walk, I'm either offered hash or asked if I want to go on a tour. It's not aggressive like in Tangiers or Chefchaouen, though. Instead the offer usually comes in the guise of a pleasant conversation, and when it's obvious that I'm not looking for anything, the conversation returns to the mundane- how long I've been in Morocco, what Australia is like, and so on. I tell you, I could use a decent conversation any day soon.
Yesterday I was too busy to talk to anyone, even if there'd been a busload of tourists in town. The morning was taken up at the nearest internet cafe, replying to emails and struggling for an hour to get my latest newsletter to send. A quick reply from my mate Tim in Nashville, inspired me to straight away start designing the cover for my book. Tim is the author of a book called "The World's Cheapest Destinations", and had some advice for me about self publishing. A few hours at the other internet cafe- where I can connect with my laptop- and I had found and 'borrowed' the images I'd been looking for. By night time, the cover was finished. I was on a roll then, so after a dinner break, I set about typing. You see, all the editing I've been doing since I got to Morocco, was old fashioned pen and paper editing. Now comes the task of transferring all those changes to the electronic medium. The old adage 'Ten percent inspiration, ninety percent perspiration' comes to mind. By the time I could no longer focus on the tiny four inch high, eight inch wide computer screen, the roosters were crowing. The morning sun signalled my bedtime, and I was significantly closer to having my book published. I was almost too excited to sleep. But not quite.
Oh, last night's dinner? Spaghetti Bolognese- apparently a Moroccan specialty, after all- preceeded by a bowl of green olives and a plate of anchovies, and served with not two or three slices, but twelve thick slices of baguette. A tasty meal that was more than I could eat. Price, including a coffee and a bottle of water: 31 dirham (about two pounds/three US dollars and change/less than five bucks Australian)
It's a good thing I didn't have any long bus trips to make yesterday. I've been a bit, well, crook in the guts, is I think the polite way to say it. Nothing too melodramatic, just a constantly churning stomach and a slight anxiety if I don't know where the nearest toilet is at any given time. The guidebooks do warn that you shouldn't drink the water, or eat anything that may have been washed in the water, but it seems like overkill to me. If I'm going to be in this country for a while, I reckon it might be an idea just to let my body get used to it here. Right now it's just a bummer- pardon the pun- that I'm in a room on the rooftop, and the toilet is inside the building, on the next floor down.
*Every town seems to have a Rue Hassan II, a Boulevard Hassan II, a Place de Hassan II, and a Centre de Hassan II. King Hassan II succeeded his father's reign in 1961, and has been credited with being able to maintain cordial relations with the West, while still keeping faith with his Arab neighbours, throughout the troubled eighties and nineties. He ruled until his death in 1999.