Essaouira Travel Guide
Morocco is a beautiful land of startling contrasts, having achieved a unique distinction, by largely retaining its architecture, culture and customs.
Morocco is a beautiful land of startling contrasts, having achieved a unique distinction, by largely retaining its architecture, culture and customs. Essaouira is a beautiful coastal testimony to that fact!
To find yourself in Essaouira, an atmospheric fishing port where flocks of seagulls swoop and drift over the towns 18th Century’s ramparts, is to have travelled south-west of Marrakech toward the Atlantic coast.
In contrast to the landscapes of the Draa and Dades valleys, your eye on this journey will be drawn to flat expansive open landscape and skyscapes, to the open road and to children and adults alike, herding and tending sheep. The children and adults appear as mere dots on the landscape and in such isolation that you may wonder from where this human life has emerged!
This is also the region of Morocco’s Argan tree from which the famous Argan oil is produced. Women’s co-operatives punctuate the route trading in handcrafted Argan oil, Argan foods and beauty products and where black coated, tree climbing goats, can be seen perched like hens on trees, munching on the Argan leaves, where else could you find such a sight but Morocco!
Many single and vulnerable women in Morocco are supported by their self-sustaining co-operatives. The money they make is their only source of income. Their products are all natural and handmade of course, and quite, quite lovely. Therefore should you visit a co-operative any support you can offer in way of purchases is money well spent.
In the once Portuguese fishing port of Essaouira and above the medieval battlements of its medina, the peeling whitewashed blue-shuttered houses look out over an arc of golden sand, toward the Atlantic ocean and bustling fishing harbour.
Essaouira is without a doubt, charming and the epitome of picturesque Moroccan shabby chic. In this enchanting town everything is accessible on foot and coupled with the relaxed and friendly atmosphere the town boasts, has made Essaouira a popular place for Europeans, Moroccans and other world visitors alike, without losing any of it’s appeal to mass tourism.
Despite the emergence of modern development encroaching slightly on Essaouira, it remains still, a very desirable destination with independent travellers.
Essaouira has a thriving and established artistic community and more recently, a thriving surfing and kitesurfing community. It is easy to understand why Essaouira and Morocco were, and still is, a ruling passion with artists and writers.
Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, tycoons like Richard Branson, world leaders like Sir Winston Churchill and film and pop stars from Charlie Chaplin, Orson Wells and Rita Hayworth to Mick Jagger, Jimmy Hendrix and Bob Marley have all been dazzled by Essaouira.
Morocco is a country with elbow room that delights and adds the spice to a sense of adventure. It, therefore, comes as no surprise to learn, Sidi Kabuki a short distance south of Essaouira, pays homage to Jimmy Hendrix, the star is reputed to have spent time there and Orson wells filmed ’Othello’ in Essaouira.
Nearby there are also four excellent golf courses ranging from 9 to 36 holes, therefore Agadir is indeed a sports enthusiasts town!
Essaouira is also home to the famous Gnaoua annual World Music Festival, held in June. North African music, music from the Sahara and fusions of jazz and rock can be listened to all over town, in small venues or on the large stages set up in Essaouira town and on the beaches, attracting musicians and music lovers of all ages from all over the world.
Once inside the city walls of Essaouira you will delight in the medina, another wonderful and uniquely atmospheric UNESCO world heritage site beckons, with a gentler pace than that of Marrakech’s medina and an additional welcome coastal breeze, threads its way through a maze of peaceful whitewashed streets and alleyways
Here progressive art galleries, antique shops, smart boutiques, inviting seafood restaurants trade alongside food stalls, market stalls, street traders and traditional artisan workshops. Essaouira is famed for its beautiful handmade decorative objects, made from the regionally grown thuya wood and of course its wonderful fresh seafood. Fresh seafood is served from beautiful pavement cafes and restaurants and directly from the street vendors and boats. You can buy your fish then take it to a rustic rooftop café, where it will be cooked for you and brought to your table. Once sated and back on the streets, warm trade winds will wrap and flap around you as you meander and comfortably explore a ‘laid back’ town imbued with art and culture.
Essaouira was once a Mecca for hippies in the 1970’s and remains today still, an enduring and progressive artists town, although you will now see fewer people with flowers in their hair, nor sense a particular odour in the air!
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