Returning to Morocco...
I've been spontaneous and extravagant, as per usual, and booked a luxury family holiday to Essouira, Morocco. It will be my fourth visit to this magical country, the last one being 15 years ago, long before the likes of Easyjet started cashing in on city breaks to Marrakesh. So it is with some trepidation that i make this return. I almost fear what I'll be met with, now that the tourists visit in drones. It is for the same reason that I won't make a return trip to Koh Samui, which was by far the most amazing travel experience of my teens, as I've heard there is now a McDonalds on the island and i can't think of anything worse.
My first visit to Morocco was nearly 20 years ago to a remote coastal town in the north of the country called Larache. I stayed with locals and lived as they did, collecting fresh 'hobz' from the communal bakery every morning, mooching around the 'medina' most days to shop for tagine ingredients and getting scrubbed to screaming point at the local hamam. Mint tea was on tap and so were the giant grilled sardines at the beach. That summer I developed a taste for the brand new culture I had discovered and wanted to delve deeper so I started studying Arabic at university in London and spent the following summer in Fez, learning both Standard Arabic and Moroccan Arabic.
In August 1999 i found myself at the Gnawa music festival in Essouira, Morocco's answer to Womad. It was a profound experience for me, a magical time i will never forget. The town fills with national and international music lovers, travelling to this hippy hangout for the intoxicating rhythm of the traditional folk music. The distinct sound of the metal maracas accompany a rolling head whose repetitive beats are said to hypnotise those who listen for long enough; locals would warn only half in jest "Lock your wives away or they fall under the spell of the music." After the festival ended each night there would be invites back to homes for continued jamming sessions and stories of witchcraft would be told in a haze of marajuana smoke , leaving us all wide-eyed in wonder. Much of the Gnawa festival is a distant memory but there are parts I recall vividly.
This visit will be somewhat different.
My family consists of husband Richard, 9 year-old August and our new addition, Olive, who is 3 months old. The boys will be chasing waves with a surfboard, and Olive and I will be roaming the souks, in search of treasures.