The fish market in the Moroccan city of Essaouira, is an alien place to most westerners and probably a place that many would not dream of buying anything from especially food for their own table.
There is little doubt that it is unlikely the market has ever seen a visit from an Environmental Health Officer, it is an extremely grubby place. The stalls, crates, ground and stallholders all seem as if they could do with a thorough cleaning.
The market is a bustling little place however, there is plenty of activity here. The fishermen were out early long before the average tourist climbed out of bed for breakfast in their Riad and probably only recently returned with their catch. This has now been cleaned, gutted and filleted for sale.
Local women that are not buying from the roadside fishermen in the port can be seen moving between the stalls looking for the best bargains and freshest fish for dinner that evening. They have a keen eye, and can certainly spot fish that was not caught that day, this will be checked before any negotiations begin.
This fish can hardly be any fresher, especially if purchased soon after the first boats return before the day becomes uncomfortably hot. This is when the wisest locals do their shopping and many of us that buy our food only from supermarkets rarely taste fish this fresh. The variety of fish on sale is also beyond that normally experienced by convenience shoppers, sea bass or bream, mullet, mackeral, rays and skate, various shellfish, crab, lobster even conger eel and shark are all on sale.
There are of course numerous other curious travellers, I am not the only one that finds it fascinating. There is plenty to keep the both tourist and photographer interested, though the pungent fishy smell might limit the length of time spent there.
Not all of the fish even makes it to the main market, there are fishermen selling their catch at the roadside or tables in the port itself. There are also trade agreements with the hoteliers and restauranteurs willing to pay for the best and freshest fish of the day.
The buyers from the remaining restaurants and hotels of Essaouira, the windy city will be amongst those inspecting the produce on offer here. Environmental health checks aside it seems likely most tourists will be dining on the produce of the market in the evening.