Here’s another piece from our Travel Writing Competition by Lucy Grewcock. Excellent stuff, thanks Lucy! The winner will be announced soon!
As the goat fell abruptly out of the Argan tree, our bus swerved violently across the empty road. Without acknowledgment, our driver re-routes the vehicle and resumes his relentless jerk and bump along the pot-holed track. Meanwhile, the pepper-black goat picks himself up and clambers back into the tree to re-join his herd.
At mid-afternoon, the bus rumbles into the outskirts of town, where men dressed in long white robes dominate the scene; they stroll in pairs, perch on concrete steps, sip glass beakers of mint tea and pull wooden carts laden with steaming pots of snails and salted chickpeas, along the cobbled street.
As our bags are piled into the road, a clove-skinned man with deep-set wrinkles trots over, pulling a parrot-blue wheelbarrow behind him. “You have riad stay tonight?” he asks, tossing my rucksack into the cart. “Uhh… yes. Have riad” I nod, mimicking his broken English for some reason. I delve into my pockets and pull out a crumpled sheet of paper. “Riad Ganaw-waaa” I attempt to pronounce, showing him my print-out. “Not problem. I know where it!” he assures me, already jogging his cart, and my bag, down the street.
I chase after the cart, which is already a good distance ahead, and skid on a mound of chilli-coloured fish-innards as it vanishes into a fish-market near the port. Cats gaze up, pink tongues flicking their greasy beards as the glazed eyes of bream and bonito, mackerel and mustard eel, tuna and stone-grey turbot gawk back. Gulls soar and screech through the pungent air, and men in woolly hats swing rusty blades at them, warning the birds off their catch.
I spy the blue cart jostling out of the market and through a tall stone archway. I pursue my courier and enter the city walls. Here, the ancient medina breathes through dusty warrens and narrow alleys; a familiar network of passages for the Chiadma and Haha Berbers and who live here; an impossible labyrinth for tourists.
Tracking the cart as it steers through a swarm of women buying fresh loaves of khobz, I zigzag past skinned cows’ heads, which swing next to camel-leather satchels and thuya wood carvings. A moped putters and stalls as it negotiates the crowd and the staggered cries of a dozen mosques puncture the air with their evening prayers; dogs howl back, competing with the calls of worship.
Thankfully, my bag-thief has paused. Dropping the handles of his cart outside an immense, metal-studded door, he awaits my arrival. Panting and sweating, I reach him and rest my hands on my knees for composure. “You need exxcise more!” he laughs as he unloads my bag and announces our arrival. “Here Riad Gnawa”. I nod up at him between wheezes, and he allows me to catch my breath before I thank him for his escort with a handful of coins.“I think you like here Essaouira”.
He smiles back with kind Moroccan eyes, a deep cinnamon brown, before vanishing back into the city.