Colours of Essaouira

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I remember the wooden doors painted light bright blue; thick woollen sweaters of an off- white or grayish brown; women dressed in woven white plaids covering their body as well as their face; men wearing jellabas in brown, pale pink, light blue, dark blue; the slow orange sunset; the dirty marmalade cat; the fat gray cat in the carpet shop on the corner of the street. The colours of Essaouira are the way they are because, through time, they are washed away by sun, salt and sea-wind.

There is a long commercial street that runs through Essaouira. This street is full of fruit stalls placed haphazardly on the road. There are vegetables for sale, sweet cakes, candy, boxes of green figs with bright red hearts, handwoven baskets, chickens with cut wings and shaved necks waiting for their last moment to come. There are handicapped people begging for money and shouting for god. There are small boys running wild in between the people, being very naughty and laughing out loud with their black rotten teeth. Stray cats are queuing in front of the butcher shop hoping for bits and pieces to fall to the ground.

One side of this street leads to the harbour of Essaouira. Fish of all sizes are laid out on wooden crates or simply on the dirty ground. Cats lick their lips as fish are being cut. Boats are still arriving. There are only men walking around in the harbour. The only women are a few female tourists. The men wear shirts that reflect the colours of Essaouira, washed out, pale, dirty.

A man with a set of very white teeth tells me the catch has been good today. It is a joyful day. The fishermen have been going through difficult times lately as ‘megaboats’ from China, Japan and Korea have arrived in their waters with enormous nets and are emptying their sea.

The other side of the commercial street leads to an unpaved path. The strong sea-wind blows the sand unmercifully in all directions. People come here to get petrol; cars and trucks come and go, blowing more dust around.

Sifting through the sand and dust, I find bits and pieces of objects that have the colour of things I have seen in town: a blue piece of newspaper the same colour as a wooden door, a pale green piece of wood with a touch of light blue, a piece of yellow cardboard matching the yellow paint of a windowsill in one of the tiny streets, a striped piece of cloth the same as the trousers I see everywhere in the shops here.

One day on the dusty path a small injured black and white cat was miauwing terribly. He had a broken paw. It was still attached to the leg and he was limping on the end of the bone. I tried to save him, but unfortunately he died. I think back a lot on that little cat and the man with the friendly face who took care of it.