Essaouira, the little fishing town that used to be called Mogador, as told by a local guy we met called Abdul, there is a story to be told about him, it's coming. Essaouira was a pandoras box filled with delightful surprises. I was quite amazed how much the locals loved animals and how accommodating they were in sharing their lively hood with the incredible amount of cats, dogs and birds that flocked into the Medina or the Old City. Cats lined up in front of the butchers waiting patiently for any leftovers or unwanted bits. Birds fly into stores and comfortably settle into one of many hessian bags filled with dried pasta and help themselves while the vendors happily sit there watching. I loved sitting on the rooftop of the Riad and being greeted by a cat (I still don't know how it managed to get there) and then it would go down the stairs, as if it has been there many times before and wait by the front door until someone opens the door to let it out on the street.
One of my greatest pleasures I had in Essaouira was to head out to the markets and haggle to get the freshest food possible to cook on the rooftop of the Riad we were staying in. I felt the process of going out to small vendors that specialise in certain foods quite organic. Fish mongers shoving moving lobsters in my face and tried to catch my attention just to show me the rows of sheep heads they had on show made it all very real. At the olive stores they made sure to give me a taste of nearly every type of olives they had and found it quite weird when I asked how much in Arabic. It was delightful to get a wave and a friendly Alsalam Alykom on our last night there by the guy who sold us very cheap fruits and vegetable for 5 days.
At this spice shop the vendor wanted us to smell every spice he had on offer and was extremely thorough in trying to explain what each spice could be used for. Later on when Abdul was explaining to us the history of the town, he mentioned that the locals never buy their spices from spice shops with the 'towering spices'. He said that he gets his spices from a man who lives in the Medina. He was described as an old man in his late 60's early 70's that grinds all the spices in front of you and hands you over the freshest spices that you can possibly use for your cooking, especially in your tagines. As for us, that day, we settled for a spice from the shop with the 'towering spices' called Harissa that we pretty much used for every meat or chicken dish we cooked there.