I stood in the middle of Place Moulay Hassan, Essaouira’s main square, trying to decide where to venture first. The sea crashed against the city walls to my right, and I could hear a faint rumble from the medina behind me. I decided to see the famous harbour first and let myself be guided by the smell of seafood and the squawks of hundreds of seagulls. Then a young man came up to me…

Talking to Strangers, or The Fortune of Morocco | Travelettes.net
photo by Taneel Teemusk via flickr

“Excuse me”, he said, interrupting me from the thought of a fresh seafood lunch, “but this is the second time I have seen you today. It is believed in my culture that it is a sign of good fortune if we see the same person three times in the one day”.

I glanced around nervously, what this a scam that was played on tourists? A lot of people had tried to warn me off travelling alone in Morocco, was this what they were talking about?

I laughed a little uncertainly but still I was curious. He told me his name was Isham, and then he asked me to come to lunch with him.

“Well you told me it was good fortune to see a person three times, so if we see each other again then yes”, I told him, thinking that would be the end of it.

He agreed, and I left to make my way to Essaouria’s fish market, the sensory heart of this walled sea city.  It was a perfect day, spent getting lost in the winding alleys of the medina, stumbling into silver stores and eating pastries by the ocean. When the cool evening breeze came, I sat down at one of the many restaurants that lined the square and ordered a vegetable tagine.

Talking to Strangers, or The Fortune of Morocco | Travelettes.net
photo by Singa Hitam via flickr

I felt a hesitant tap on my shoulder, and I turned around see Isham again, “Hello again, it seems that I will have good luck”. I was a little startled, but thought surely no one would go this far to scam a traveller. “Do you mind if I join you?” Well a deal was a deal, and meeting new people is the kind of experience that is said to make travel so memorable. So I dived in, and threw my reservations to the salty breeze. “Yes of course, I’ve just ordered, but I’m sure we can get the waiter to come back if you’re still hungry…”

We sat and ate, and watched locals and visitors alike stroll past, there is no cause for hurry in a place like this after all. He then took me to a rooftop bar he was meeting his friends at, where we ordered virgin mojitos and talked long into the night about the differences and similarities in our lives.

Talking to Strangers, or The Fortune of Morocco | Travelettes.net

The next evening, after spending the day riding camels along the sand and watching windsurfers tackle the monstrous waves, I met Isham again for dinner. This time we went to the restaurant of his friend, and took the chef’s recommendation of the couscous before heading to a cosy bar tucked away in the attic of a building, to listen to African music and drink verviene tea.

At the end of the night he told me it was also customary to give a gift to the person they had seen three times, and handed me a simple, braided leather bracelet. I wore that bracelet for the rest of my travels, and every time I looked at it I was reminded that the best experience to come out my trip to Morocco was not finding bargains in the medina, or sampling the fresh, exotic food, but rather seeing the kindness and hospitality of the Moroccan people, and discovering the true essence of being a traveller in this world.

Talking to Strangers, or The Fortune of Morocco | Travelettes.net

Good to know:

Essaouira lies on the Moroccan Atlantic coast, known as Morocco’s “windy city”.  It is approx. 3 hours by bus from Marrakech. To find out more read Annika’s story of camels, kitesurfer and pure memories.

Have you ever had a surprising encounter with a stranger while travelling? We’d love to hear your stories!


This is a guest post by Danielle Catt.

b80d1721-d324-48bd-b10c-db17a2d3a0a5Danielle is based in Sydney and hopes one day to visit every country in the world. When she’s not trying to make this happen, she’s drinking wine and documenting her own backyard at @DanielleCatt.