The walled section of the Medina in the background

Gateway through the walls

Colorful boats on a cloudy day

Abandoned buildings and flocks of birds on an island

Storage sheds by the port

The fortified walls near the port

Soccer game between the walls

Main square in the medina

The medina and the beach at low tide

Empty lounge chairs on the beach

A surfer looks at Isle Mogador

Camel trek across the beach

An old Spanish fort

Kitesurfing on the windswept beach

The old city in the background

Fresh seafood from the grill stands

An old door under the lights at night

Rounded section of the city walls

Palm trees lining the city walls

A watchtower and the waves breaking

Well defended fortifications

Whitewater at dusk

Sunset from the ramparts

Sea birds flock around the port at sunset

The walls of the medina

Essaouira, Morocco

Castles in the Wind

January 4, 2013

The clouds are really low

And they overflow

With cotton candy

And battle grounds

Red and brown

- Jimi Hendrix

The wind whips across the horseshoe shaped beach, propelling kitesurfers smoothly along the water and making it impossible to relax on the beach. The old ruins of a former watchtower, the Bordj El Berod, intertwine with the sand and the surf as camels lazily carry tourists the short distance along the beach. Across the bay the walled Medina dominates the otherwise flat landscape. On the land surrounding the Medina the new section of the city sprawls out to the horizon. All around the Medina tourists from all over the world wander down the narrow alleyways and around the walls, snapping photographs, eyeing up souvenirs, and looking for restaurants. This wasn’t anything like the places I had come from.

Along with the tourists came the hassles. Walking through the Medina there were constant calls for attention from the storefronts on either side. The mildly friendly voices trying to start up a conversation never let up. It became tiring after half an hour; the best tactic seemed to be simple silence or waving your hand to indicate no. In addition to the stores there are also vendors with trays of cookies, offering more than just standard cookies but “happy cookies” and “space cakes” too. While there wasn’t much alcohol in town there were a lot of people offering to sell drugs.

But the Medina was more than just the tourists and the hassle and the affluence and the prosperity they brought with them. The lives of the local people were also there, inseparable in their coexistence. They moved through the same narrow alleyways doing their daily shopping, talking with friends, and dodging the same motorbikes. They lingered at the edges watching life pass by. While tourism has changed the stores lining the alleyways it hasn’t changed the alleyways and it hasn’t changed the role the old city plays in everyday life. The old photograph stores have windows with dusty advertisements for genuine Kodak paper even though now it’s all about digital. Like the rest of the Medina, the stores are slow to change, retaining a timeless mix of the old and the new that provides a glimpse of the past and also an indication of what they future will hold.