Friday, January 2, 2015

A Moroccan seaside residency

At the end of our Moroccan Caravan adventure, I headed to Essaouira, a coastal town three hours west of Marrakech for my own weeklong writers retreat. This charming fort town is heritage listed by Unesco and you can easily see why.

 From its fortified battlements, its old medina buildings and romantic fishing port, the lick of salt is all over as the sound of the Altantic Ocean follows you wherever you go. It is a windy town in summer I'm told, a factor that brings many visitors here to escape the inland heat. It was autumn when I visited with sunny days struggling to break through the uncharacteristic rain clouds, perfect for writing.

My writer's garrett was a rooftop airbnb room close to the daily market and not far from the port and Scala, the old Portugese fort. My Swedish host Martin was most hospitable and he and his friend Youssef showed me around on my first day and provided plenty of entertainment and diversion at the end of my writing day.

To the south of the town is village called Diabat where Jimi Hendrix once visited in 1969. You can walk there along the beach only you have to find a way to cross the river.

There's an old ruined castle which is said to have given Jimi inspiration for the song Castles Made of Sand, (except for the fact he wrote it two years earlier).

The chorus line goes "And so castles made of sand, fall in the sea, eventually." Seems it was rather prophetic as Jimi himself may have noticed when he walked the beach near the old Portugese battlement which is typically surrounded by waves at high tide.

If you get thirsty after your walk, Diabat village boasts five Jimi Hendrix cafes which seemed pretty much deserted but must get a good run when the local Gnawa Music Festival is on.

 After a few days of solid writing when Sunday came around I decided to take the day off and head to the second hand souk. I had a wonderful time fossicking around rows and rows of Steptoe and Son shacks manned by old men who looked like they slept on fabulous old carpets and armchairs they were selling for a song.

I've decided fossicking is good for writing.. ferreting around in junk and seeing what turns up is a lot like what we do each day at our desks. Picking things up, turning them over this way and that, rummaging through a pile of stuff that looks like garbage but yields a fabulous find at the bottom of the pile. So familiar! Taking yourself away from your desk for a bit and physically rummaging is a lot like the ruminating benefits of cleaning. Scrubbing the floors or the bath, having a big clean out in your office or garage is all good for ordering the mind. A lot of writers fear they may be procrastinating (and they may well be if they keep it up day after day) but I find after such a break, I bounce back to my desk with renewed energy as if I had been at the same time putting the broom through my writing.

Later in the day, sticking to my day off rule, I was randomly googling and came across a residency in Turkey, which is next on my list of countries to visit. I filled out an online application for mau mau residency program and within a few days had my acceptance letter.  You see what a day of fossicking  can turn up. Oh, and I finished my draft of My Mother Duras. Now for the rewrites!

Before Turkey I plan to be back in Essaouira for our Sacred Song Sacred Story retreat in May. I hope you can join us!

Check out this year's creative adventures: Angkor Wat, Bali, Bhutan at

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