Friday, January 09, 2009

21 November: Essaouira

This morning we had a guided tour around the battlements / fortress along the coast line, the harbour (where they were shooting a Moroccan movie) and the Medina.

After that, Varen & I went and had a huge seafood lunch of prawns, some weird flat crustacean we were told were scampi (but I can't find anything that looks vaguely right online!), spider crab, dorado and sole. How very delish! And so fresh, we literally pointed and chose everything before they cooked it for us.

After that we had a bit of a rest and I finished reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (that's what's been keeping me occupied on the last few lengthy bus rides).

The end of colonial rule in Africa is shown in microcosm through the tragicomic collapse of a Baptist missionary family. The mother and all four daughters take turns narrating and their distinctive voices are full of life. (The eldest daughter, a kind of Malaprop Barbie, is a hoot.) Arriving full of certainties in the Belgian Congo in 1959, they're in for a series of rude shocks. Father is a hellfire patriarch come to chastise the heathen natives; other members of the family, though cowed, are questioning and observant. The swell of events soon reaches their jungle outpost; and as the country evicts its exploitive Belgian rulers, the women in the family turn away from Father. The novel is unbalanced, not least in structure, with a lengthy what-happened-next driven not by plot demands but by the author's need to get across all she has to say about power, politics and hypocrisy on the international as well as the domestic scale. We forgive her because she is right, and because we couldn't bear to leave these characters. A big, ambitious, funny and moving book.

I enjoyed it, but I constantly had the feeling that I'd read it before. But not in the sense that I knew what was going to happen. Weird. I loved each character's distinct voice.

Then we went out and spent some time wandering the markets. I was sort of determined to buy myself some earrings but things seem quite expensive (in Rand terms). I did end up with some lovely ones tho (sadly not the bunny ones I'd seen first) thanks to some skillful bargaining by Varen - I was so proud, he did the best bargaining job of either of us yet!

And then we went for dinner with the core group. Dinner was not fabulous. The menu on offer certainly looked promising but sadly they didn't have much of it available (because it's their quiet season). We had some fun after dinner sitting in one of our guide Simo's friend's shops listening to them play traditional Gnawa music on a guitar-like instrument.


Tamara said...

I loved Poisonwood Bible! I've read one or two of Kingsolver's books, and this was by far the best.

I've never eaten crab before. Would love to try it. Your lunch sounds super yummy.

phillygirl said...

@tamara - I'm keen to read more of her, what would you recommend?? Crab is okay ... but I always find I have more shell than actual meat. I suck at cracking it open and getting to the good bits. So I probably shouldn't bother having it again ... but the novelty factor gets me every time ;)

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