Morocco, Day 8 – Essouria

April 18th – Today we leave Marrakesh to visit Essouria in the south, a lovely beach town close to Tim’s remote village of Tigmijou. The three hour ride seems insanely short after the previous seven hour journeys up and down the mountains. We arrive in Essouria and once again are staying in a beautiful Riad. We go up to our room and look out the windows in the hall to see ocean and waves crashing on rocks and jetties stretching out from the coast here on the other side of the Atlantic. We go up to the roof and find an even more amazing view – looking out to the ocean on three sides, with the colorful rooftops of the city behind us.

We go out into the town and sit down at a seafood stand on the water. This stand has a display of raw fish, which I can’t stand the smell of. I’m slightly hesitant to eat here. I sit down with the rest of the group and soon find myself digging meat out of odd looking types of shellfish, some unidentifiable, but all delicious. We eat grilled calamari and sea bass fresh from the ocean next to us. I even muster up the courage to try sea urchin. After lunch, we walk around the town and pop into the small shops we see. Rebecca is having a tough time bargaining over a lantern she really wants. We stop at a rooftop wine bar to enjoy the sunset. We spot Tim and Brian sitting on the sea wall, enjoying the same view. A group of Irish people next to our table ask if we’re also stuck in Essouria because of the airport situation in Europe. We comment that it wouldn’t be tragic to find ourselves stuck here for a few extra days.

After dinner, we go back to the hotel with several bottles of wine and head up to the roof. The stars and the ocean provide an incredible setting for this late night gathering. Kate, Joya, Rebecca and I lay out on lawn chairs. We light candles so there’s a bit more illumination than just the stars. At one point, Rebecca pulls me aside and says how appreciative she is of all the work I do for Nest year round. I get a little teary eyed as she talks. It sounds stupid, but I never truly took the time to think about how what we do affects the people we’ve met here. As we go through the process of planning an event back in the U.S., I’m not thinking as I try to secure food sponsors about the woman who will send her child to school because of that event. I never stop to think about the effect one person can have, and the effect I’ve personally had over the years. I guess I should’ve realized this two years ago, when Rebecca asked me to step up as president of the NYC board, but it’s not until now that I’m really seeing the big picture. I’ve always thought of Nest as my hobby, something I can feel good about doing in my spare time, and truly proud to be part of it, but it’s not often enough that I stop to think about the difference we make across the globe.

We walk back to the group and Han gives me and Rebecca a huge hug. Rebecca comments that she loves how most Nest people are huggers. I remark that I’m usually not this touchy feely with people. They laugh and I think about how emotional I’ve gotten during this trip, particularly tonight, and I assume it must be the atmosphere, the vacation, the wine, or the overall sense of connection to the women we’ve spent so much time with on this trip, both Moroccan and American.

Morocco, Day 3 – Fes

April 14th – We wake up at 5:30 a.m. and board our little tour bus. It’s a seven hour drive north to Fes. The trip is a scenic drive through Moroccan fields and mountains. It’s wildflower season and we see varieties everywhere of yellows, reds and blues. Someone yells that they want to lie in a field of poppies. I agree. We are driving in the middle of nowhere and see the first cluster of huts we’ve seen for hours. There is one small shop in this cluster, with two signs outside. One says Coca Cola, one says Tide. No matter how far you go, work will always follow you.

We arrive in Fes after our long trip, and enter the magnificent Riad Tizwa. A redhead comes bounding down the steps, and we drop our luggage and run to hug Joya, who has finally made it to Morocco after her demanding legal job almost prevented her from taking the trip she had been looking forward to for months. She takes me to our room, which has a canopy bed with closeable curtains, a fireplace, and an intricate Moroccan lantern hanging from the ceiling. The bedroom windows look down into the hotel lobby, where the rest of our group is still getting settled and finding their rooms.

We leave the Riad to visit the famed Fes Souks, which are exactly as I imagined – crowded alleyways with shopkeepers trying to sell you everything from fruits, spices, camel meat, jewelry, clothing, shoes, herbs and more. At first I didn’t see anything I wanted to buy in these shops, although I was taking notice of some mirrors with beautifully decorated mosaic patterned frames. Some of them had little doors on them that opened to reveal the mirror, and many of them had a distinct orange color that I adored. I finally came across one that I decided I must have, with an orange and gold border. I’m told the orange is camel bone with henna dye. I bargain the shopkeeper down to half of what he first asked for, so I probably got a reasonable price for a white tourist. We make our way back through the souks to the clock tower café, where we eat couscous, vegetables, cheese, fruits, almond, banana and date shakes, and…camel meat.