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Travellive 4 - 2018

I FIND THE MEDINA TO

I FIND THE MEDINA TO HAVE A STRONG RESEMBLANCE TO KALEIDOSCOPE LENSES, WHERE EVERY TURN PRESENTS A DIFFERENT PICTURE WITH NO PICTURE EVER BEING THE SAME. SPREAD OUT BEFORE MY EYES WAS ALWAYS A COMPLETELY NEW SCENE, DIFFERENT FROM THE PREVIOUS. About a dozen steps away from the small and quiet alleys with exceptionally high walls on both sides, I was immediately greeted with hundreds of colorful items sold at different souks - Essaouira's traditional markets. The stalls there offer a wide variety of goods from traditional Moroccan handicrafts such as ceramics, elaborate tapestries, and silver-plated tea cups, as well as popular souvenir items such as t-shirts and bags printed with unique Moroccan images. I find the Medina to have a strong resemblance to kaleidoscope lenses, where every turn presents a different picture with no picture ever being the same. Spread out before my eyes was always a completely new scene, different from the previous. At the center of the Medina, where most tourists would love to visit at least once, is the Place Moulay Hassan. During the day, this beautiful square is filled with huge white and blue umbrellas that cover a number of fresh fruits, drinks, and souvenir stalls, which prove to be a popular attraction for both tourists and locals alike. I visited a small stall to savor the delicous Tajine, and enjoy the bustling scene of the square while watching the street performers put on their shows. Tajine is a dish you can order anywhere in Essaouira, from luxury restaurants to cheap food stalls hidden away in quiet alleys. This miraculous dish is a stew cooked on low heat, and named for its unique cookware, which is a large terracotta pot with a conical lid. Thanks to this special shape, any food cooked in the Tajine is always soft and tender, soaked with flavorful spices, to create the most delicious dishes without the meat being dried out or becoming too tough. The taste of tajine is one so luscious and savory you'll probably not even notice how healthy the food is as well. LIVE SLOW AND ENJOY FRAGRANT MINT TEA When you have spent most of your time to travel from one place to another, spending the remainder of your journey at a local home in Essaouira is a great way to unwind. My hotel owner's friend invited me to her home, and welcomed me with a traditional ritual. She made me a silver tea pot filled with hot traditional Moroccan Touareg tea, which consists of green tea, fresh mint leaves, and sugar. For Moroccans, tea is considered a precious drink since Muslim men are not allowed to drink alcohol. It can be seen in almost all corners of social life in the country, similar to Vietnam in some ways. The elaborate pouring method though is one of the many key differences between this African nation's and Vietnam's tea drinking habits. Sunsets in Essaouira are magical scenes that entice visitors to keep coming back. Any places you visit in Morocco, you will find Medina, mint tea, souk markets, and mosques, but the beauty of Essaouira is unique and unmistakable. ACCOMMODATION ñ Essaouira offers affordable accommodation at a number of hostels and hotels which costs an average of 20-50 USD per night. Try to stay at a Riad - a traditional Islamic style house, formerly a house, but upgraded to a hotel for tourists. EVENTS ñ Essaouira is famous for its world music festivals that take place from April to June annually, attracting a large number of tourists. You should not miss them if you visit Essaouira during this festive period. TRAVEL EXPENSES ñ A 6-day trip to Morocco from Ho Chi Minh City costs about 3,000 USD per person, including airfare, meals, and accommodation. OTHER NOTES ñ While Morocco is a modernizing nation, there are still some vestiges of tradition that permeate the culture. One such example is that the nation is still highly patriarchal. That said, culturally sensitive dressing is advisable. Knees and shoulders should be covered (this protects from sunburn anyway), body-con and cleavage are discouraged, and of course a woman attracts less attention when travelling with a man. ñ Hydration when travelling is key, especially in arid regions. Clean safe water is readily available in Morocco, take advantage of this. This cannot be overstated. TRAVELLIVE

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