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We had waiting for years for the town clock to make us hear the sound of its bells again: it is done! Restored in 2012, it has shown the time for a few weeks now and it rings every quarter of an hour. Made up of five bells, the Essaouira clock had always timed the daily rhythm of the town inhabitants but in 1997, the mechanism stopped and until today no serious restoration work had been undertaken. A symbol of Essaouira, the clock, inaugurated by Marshal Lyautey, and which is situated in the Medina, beside the Bab El Menzeh Square, used to give the time ever since 1918 to the inhabitants of the town. Some attempts had been made to fix up the clock but they did not last long. Important restoration work started a few months ago and the clock once again makes hear the sound of its bells to every inhabitant’s heart content who nostalgically recall the times when the bell strikes used to sound the time to go to school, the time to go for lunch etc…Smiles come on people’s faces when they evoke this time.
The investment comes to an estimation of 1.2MillionDH. In practical terms, two sites were involved at one time: the repair of the clock complete mechanism and the restoration of the building sheltering it. The repair of the very old and complex mechanism was undertaken by a company from Casablanca: the agreement implied to find the same mechanism as before and this requirement was paramount. The restoration of the building will allow for a new tourist site whose access will be via the laying of a staircase at the back of the building. We may perhaps consider the colour chosen for the railings at the top of the tower as a bit unfortunate…
The clock is not the only mythical building in the town to be in the course of restoration. Building work is underway as well in Bab Marrakech Bastion: led by the town Council and the Ministry for Culture, the first big restoring operation ended in 2006, the first phase of the work being completed before the Gnaoua Festival. The first floor and the terrace have been laid out to accommodate a new place for concerts. A second phase of the works will take place during the summer. This building was one of the major defence points in the town. Exhibitions have already been planned.
One can only admire the amount of changes and improvements of the roadwork in the new town: the paving of sidewalks, the tarred roads, the flower beds on the roundabouts, the laying out of numerous roundabouts and of the green belt… but one can only deplore the state of the medina where the work starts and stops endlessly provoking in many derb non ending water cuts, sewage flooding, dangerous holes for people on foot and all kinds of possible imaginable inconveniences. The medina inhabitants are letting out their anger and tourists are fleeing the old town.
Odin is afloat again in the town harbour after several months of restoration. This boat that I spoke about in issue 34 of The Guido looks magnificent! Her two masts of respectively 12 and 8.80metres redone according to the book regained their place. The boat should reach the harbour of Brest in Brittany for the 2012 edition of the Tonnerres de Brest which will take place from July 13th to July 19th. This event taking place every four years will host this year as guests of honour Morocco as well as Indonesia, Mexico, Norway and Russia. For the occasion, a 1500m² stall will be set up on the docks in order to promote tourism and sea life in Morocco. From Essaouira to Brest it’s only a minute away!
In the medina- Strange bas relief
To people who know how to look, how to hunt around, the medina is packed with remarkable stalls: Abdelmalek Ahouirine’s is one of them. Through his sculptures, his hands tell the tale of the world, of life, of daily life in the country, of the town of Essaouira and even of the war. He hunts around in the harbour for pieces of boats, heavy lumps of wood of various sizes, sometimes streaked with green, red, vibrant orange or blue. For the past forty years, he has expressed his visions in bas relief with naïve figures, animals or houses.
They are not figurative representations as such but merely expressions of his vision of History in hollowed designs or in simulated perspective. Here one finds the war in Palestine or in Gaza with tanks, missiles and soldiers. There one sees the sweetness of the countryside and its animals or the construction of the pyramids. There again is the Mellah, its ramparts and the boats brushing against them. He has always sculpted bas relief and in the first years he did this in parallel with his job of carpenter.
Today, he works in his little stall at the top of the Taraa Square, in the right hand side alley going down towards the food souks. His hands move constantly. His young son, when not at school, accompanies his father and maintains his productions; he is also starting to handle wood chisels. Abdelmalek makes what he wants and sells to passers by or to connoisseurs of his art. There’s no other shop like his in the town and it’s a must. Our sculptor presented two of his panels last February at the latest exhibition Etrange V at the AFME
We like the information notice boards on local flora and fauna set up outside the town on the South along the Agadir road as well as well planned car parks and the paths leading to the discovery of the Ksob wadi and to the argan tree wood! A great initiative!
We like the spice shop which opened a few months ago in the Ibn Khaldoun Street: colours and perfumes flow out of it and pervade the streets and one finds a very gracious welcome there.
One may regret that the sculptures erected in front of the Sofitel and the Atlas hotels last June for the Gnaoua festival were removed but we do appreciate the replacing ones in front of the Sofitel though they are not in full view.
Loft-expo: a brownfield industrial zone is now hosting painting exhibitions; it is right at the end of town behind a City Hall annex, at the end of the motorway north of town: a very good initiative!
The Rosalie: an initiative for tourists was born last summer on the sea front walk, we are not aware of the reasons that stopped it. Activities of that type are in shortage in the town. The Rosalie gave the town a summer atmosphere with the karts, the four wheel bicycles, the trampolines and Moroccan and European tourists were happy to see that one did not forget children in Essaouira. It is a pity that the operating license ends on September 15 while tourists come all year round to our town. We are hoping for a quick return of these events.
Here is one’s view on the golf course from a passing tourist: “The place is beautiful and the vegetation is very interesting: all these olive trees and these witch’s claws. Form the point of view of aesthetics, the view is magnificent for players and ramblers alike. The course is well maintained, some holes are protected from the wind, some are not, which gives the course an added interest; from a technical point of view, this course is accessible to all: everyone can enjoy themselves whatever their level of practice. There are not many patrons but the welcome is very good; the caddies are very well trained and we like the fact that one is offered water to drink all along the course. The wind makes for a different approach to the course: it is not a stumbling block but an added challenge. There is one hole, though (whose number we have forgotten) that we would have liked to see turned around as when we are facing it, we are turning our back to the landscape. As for the holes 9 and 18, they stand a bit too far back from the future club house where one will pause for lunch before going back on the course. The putting green and the practice are great and there is nothing to say about them: they are perfect for trials and warm ups. A good point for the retention ponds and their water purifying plants. “
One feels angry at the location chosen to build the Sidi Kaouki restaurants to replace those which burned in July 2009: they completely hide the town marabout set on the beach. This is a beautiful monument as well as being the raison d’être of the town and the place of a pilgrimage every year in August!
A good environmental action: in order to stop the constant shifting of the dune located at the end of town which encroaches everywhere and covers parking lots, huts and roads at every change in the weather, wooden gates are presently erected and some vegetation will be planted later on to stabilize the sand. This dune, moreover, was systematically being destroyed by horses, camels, quads and ramblers. It is a good initiative from the public authorities.
Not to be missed: visual arts gallery exhibition from December 18, 2010 to January 18, 2011 at the Fort Bab Marrakech in Essaouira.
Magic Youssef Chouiter, our extraordinary local magician, is organizing for the second time a Magic Festival in Essaouira. This manifestation last year which included not only a festival but also a gala, conferences, a competition and an exhibition was a big success as he gathered about 50 illusionists from Morocco and elsewhere. He is now launching an appeal to any possible sponsor to repeat this event in the spring 2011: we fully support him. One can always attend one of his magic evenings or meet him at the Taros or at the Sirocco or you can also contact him at +212(0)671491646.