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After two hours of driving through beautiful greenery, Mal and I arrived in Essaouira with a ride from our new-found Berlin friends Chris and Bella that picked us up while hitchhiking. Our couchsurfing host, an older man who was a waiter at a five star hotel, eagerly awaited our arrival as we were dropped off near the bus station, and we quickly made introductions as we walked to his apartment. We were made more than welcome, as anything in the apartment (including bottles of wine gifted to our host from his guests) was generously offered to us, and it really felt as though we were staying in the hospitality of a hotel.

Nights of conversations ranging from our host telling us about being kidnapped in Lebanon to waking up with a wife in Libya that he didn’t remember marrying, and many other wild stories set the theme for how sporadic our time in Essaouira would be.

During our adventures outside of the apartment, Mal and I explored the small medina, fish marketplace, and many local areas along the coast that swelled with seafoam as the tide began to come in during sunset. Bits of seaglass could be seen scattered all over the ground, blowholes where water shot out when the tide rose were evident in the rocks, and breakers big enough to lounge on were the perfect solace away from the loud and vibrant streets.

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Fruit sellers also carry snacks and oil canisters.

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A man wipes sweat from his face in the heat of the day while working to construct a new marina.

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More marina construction, with people from all walks of life taking a break to check out the progress.

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Endless blue boats.

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An older man walks through the shipyards.

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It takes 9 months to complete each of these large tuna boats.

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We were invited in to the shipyards by a builder who eagerly showed us some of the massive tuna boats that were under construction.

Highlights included seeing a Gnaoua band that Chris and Bella had found out about playing in a small restaurant, so we were able to experience the local music scene. Twirling around as they used finger cymbals mixed with traditional instruments, the band entertained as we danced, laughed, and talked more with our friends. Not only had they been to the same music festival Jeremy and I went to to start our gap year, but their friends had founded it! So it was perfect to have met, considering we shared similar interests in music, off the beaten path travel, and alternative culture.

In the morning, we were invited to join Chris and Bella at a private beach a bit outside of the city, and enjoyed spending hours lounging around in the sand, making an art piece out of scattered trash, and being asked to buy fake metal bracelets from China by Berber men. The weather was absolutely perfect with a turquoise blue sky, and we eagerly soaked up the warm rays as stray dogs came up to us begging for snacks with irresistible smiles.

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A man walks on top of a path above breakers next to the Atlantic Ocean.

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Sunbursts behind the Ramparts.

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Seagulls scatter as local fishermen pull in their last catches for the day.

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Our own private beach!

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After another night of stories and meeting a couple other couchsurfers from our host, we wound down and decided it would be best to leave in the early morning to begin our long journey to Casablanca. With our hitchwiki maps loaded into the phone, we decided on a lesser-traveled route against our better judgement, and our first ride was from an off duty police officer. Would he drop us at the local police station, or near the street we needed to get our next ride?