Exploring Morocco's historical fishing city and indulging in the "catch of the day"
I must admit I have never been a fish enthusiast, yet visiting fishing villages is high on my list of places to explore when visiting a new country. When Morocco Excursions contacted me to photograph their tour to Essaouira- Morocco's historical coastal city and a World Heritage Site - I jumped at the opportunity.
I had first heard of this exotic and soulful fishing city from locals in Marrakech. They mentioned that it is a perfect destination to immerse oneself in a world of colour, indulge in freshly caught fish, sample colourful traditional culture and mingle with the friendly fisherman.
They told me to visit hungry.
Essaouira's port was once an important hub for trade between Europe, Africa and America until the 19th Century. Today the harbour is dominated by the comings and goings of local fisherman who make a living from the sea.
A variety of unique fish species unique to Morocco
I spent a few hours in the harbour watching the small blue fishing trawlers coming in at a relaxed pace with their catch of the day. A selection of fish species can be found on display by individual "fishmongers" in an open air market alongside the quay. Fishermen tend to their stalls gutting and filleting their catch whilst bartering the best prices with local restaurateurs.
I visited each stall, fascinated by the wide variety of unique fish both big and small that can be found here and nowhere else in the world. Tourists and locals can hand pick their favourite fish, and have it cooked while you wait at the open air restaurants around the market.
I struggle to remember each species names, so decided to share all the images of them I mustered up.
Getting high on sea urchins
Local fishermen, equally intrigued by me, shared stories of their lives with me and with proudness let me try out some of their fish. I am not the bravest foodie out there and very seldom you will find me trying out something I have never experienced before. I mean I have never even plucked up the courage to eat an oyster before.
I found it hard to say no to a Moroccan. Just look at this smile!
One cheerful gentleman with a stall of fish you don't have to cook - offered me a sea urchin. Its shell is made of calcium carbonate and its spherical body is defended by hundreds of spines that can pierce through human skin (This is the way I remember sea urchins - always getting stuck in my feet while exploring rock pools). Its mouth alone is home to five sharp teeth that can chew through stone, and as far as I can remember these things are poisonous. So why would one want to eat it?
He cracked open the shell to reveal 5 chambers of orange-coloured gonads with a creamy appearance. Gonads are both male and female reproductive organs. It is this part of the sea urchin that gets eaten. It was just amazing to see. I never before wondered what these sea hedgehogs looked like.
Feeling brave, I tried it and was pleasantly surprised to taste its delicate, sweet flavour that within seconds melted away like butter in my mouth.
Would I try it again? Most definitely! Its my new favourite seafood!
And its not because it contains the same chemical (anandamide) that can be found in cannabis, but rather for its rich nutritional value.