February 18: Essaouira

Essaouira once a port city is now a resort on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. Strong "AlizĂ©e" trade winds make the city’s crescent beach popular for surfing, windsurfing and kite surfing. Over the years it has been a very popular site also for many motion pictures.

Its Medina (old town) is protected by 18th-century seafront ramparts called the Skala de la Kasbah, which were designed by European engineers. Old brass cannons line the walls, and there are beautiful ocean views. The city has been diversified since its creation with Christians, Jews and Muslims living and working side by side. Symbols of each religion can be seen carved into the walls surrounding the city emphasizing this coexistence. Today, however, the Jew population is very small in comparison to centuries ago due to the migration to Israel after WWII.

Tucked deep within the old walls are rows and rows of alleyways, each with their multitudes of shops from spices to leather goods and tourist items. Unlike Marrakech where the souk was so large and busy, the area in Essaouira is less congested and easier to navigate. One still needs a map and a good sense of direction, but the outer wall encircles the city so one can only get so far.

First on the agenda is a cooking class in Moroccan entree. The menu is to prepare a soup for the first course and the a chicken tagine for the main meal serving it for lunch. The school is owned by a brother and sister who between them also own a riad above the school and a shop of cooking ware nearby.

Cutting, chopping, mixing, stirring -- each person prepares their own portion of the meal. Tagine is one of the main Moroccan style of cooking and uses a specific ceramic pot designed to slow cook the food over an open flame. The spices added to the food pieces are thought out with great care to bring the best flavor to the meal while at the same time assist in the cooking of the items within the tagine. There is a definite art to be learned as one layers the ingredients and times the stirring. Patience is a requirement of any good cook!

While waiting for the food to simmer and cook a quick trip down the street to the local "spice man" to learn of the different uses of each -- both for cooking and medicinal.

Following a morning of "kitchen duties" it is off to tour the medina. Woodworking, and silver works are two of the fine crafts created by artisans within the city. Apprenticeships are trained by masters passing the skill down. A co-op is then used as a means of selling the final products to the general public. Each piece is a work of art.

Tonight is the final dinner of the group before everyone starts their journey home.

Cooking Stations

First Course Ingredients

Master Chef, Chief Teacher, and All Around Great Person!!

First Step - Chop!

The Group

Continuing On1

Jessica and Mary -- A Watched Pot Never Boils!

Tired Moroccan Cats

Spice Market!

Shoe Store

Waiting to Start Lunch

Final Product of Class

More Wild Cats -- Feeding Time

Fishing Nets in Harbor

Fishing Boats

Entrance into The Medina

Harbor

City Wall

Marilyn

Strolling Through The Medina

Inlaid Wood Table Under Construction