Finally back in Morocco, I arrive in Casablanca and drive to Marrakesh to spend the night. I wake up to breakfast on the terrace– fresh orange juice and eggs– then make a quick stop in the medina to pick up hand-carved trays made from thuja wood for displaying Kahina at retail. The thuya wood is an exotic conifer related to cedar which is unique to this region of Morocco. With Majid as my translator, I ask the shop owner about the forests and how the wood is harvested. A man of his trade, he knows everything about the trees and explains that they regenerate from their stumps after being cut down. The harvesting of the wood is so sustainable that the forestry service cuts down the wood themselves and sells it. The work of carving the trays is done by only a few artisans in Morocco.
On the drive to Essaouiria, there are many signs of progress, albeit slow. Numerous highways are under construction, although not much advancement has been made since the last time I was here 6 months ago. It appears as if a single worker pushing a wheelbarrow across wide swaths of dusty road is responsible for building entire two lane roads. His job seems Sisyphean, but he keeps at it.
We pass beautiful olive orchards, trucks piled with sheep and their shepherds, donkeys and the mandarin oranges that are now in season, all on their way to market. One of the olive groves we pass shows one of the signs of “progress” recently introduced to the region: fertilizer brought from Israel. The grove, which was heavily fertilized to increase productivity in its first year, now stands practically barren, its nutrients and strength depleted after its forced productivity and premature harvesting.
We arrive at beautiful Essaouria at 5:00, just as the fishermen are bringing in their haul for the day. All manner of fish is being gutted while the seagulls and cats wait patiently in the wings for their share. We end the day with a feast of fresh fish bought and cooked at the fish market in the medina and served with the ever-present olives, bread and mint tea.