a Tourist Office; banks, cafes and some fine restaurants are located in this plaza. Jack's Kiosk is an important landmark where every essential can be found, from
newspapers, magazines and second-hand books in diverse languages, to international telephone services and fax facilities and assistance with travel arrangements.
Darb Laalouj is a cross-street on the general north-south axis which houses many woodworkers as well as the excellent Museum of Sidi Mohammed Ibn Abdcllah, once the home of the Pasha. It contains carpets, traditional weapons and musical instruments with superb marquetry inlay, objects showing the long history of the tradition of thuya marquetry and woodworking in Essaouira, displays which suggest the meaning of Berber symbols found on diverse art forms, etc.
Near the western end of Darb Laalouj lies the entrance to the Skala de la Ville. Impressive European cannons line these great sea ramparts and from their North Bastion, one can get an overview of the Medina.
Essaouira looking S through harbour entrance, yacht masts just visible top left Minaret
Essaouira: the small boats used to harvest seaweed are towed by fishing boats Minaret
According to Ciccro, the magnificent marquetry tables, still made in Essaouira, were highly prized in Rome. To this day, the quality of woodworking here is as breathtaking as the wood principally used for its execution: thuya. A beautiful walnut-like wood derived from a coniferous tree rare elsewhere, grows abundantly around Essaouira. It is used extensively in the
production of ornamental objects: bowls, boxes, candlesticks, lamp-holders, carvings and desktop items, both for everyday use by Moroccans and for the tourist trade. Thuya is a vcrv brittle decorative wood, not ideal for construction. The root is very hard and has the same characteristics as burr walnut. Fine banding and cross banding are used to create decorative effects similar to the characteristic found on Sheraton furniture.
The woodworkers' souk runs along the rampart walls along the Rue de la Skala, and on streets perpendicular to it. Essaouira is unusual in that there seems to be no pressure to purchase and on the base of most items can be found the price, or at least the starting point for negotiations. A reduction of about 30% can be expected after haggling. As in Safi, you will also be invited to see the craftsmen at work producing these beautiful handmade items. Note particularly the exact fitting lids and the very high quality of finish on almost everything.
Many of the abstract forms made from the natural *
twisting roots arc truly spectacular and very cheap. For some contemporary pieces which play upon these natural abstractions, visit the Galerie d'Art Frederic Damgaard (Av. Oqba Ibn Nafia).
Unlike Safi, where the police exclude all casual visitors from the port, here the public are encouraged to mingle with the fishermen and to eat in one of the restaurants inside the port. There are two kinds: open air with tantalising aromas where fresh fish are grilled by several independent fisherman-chefs along the quayside, and a
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