Essaouira is a fortified harbour city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. There are direct flights now from the UK but if you arrive in Marrakech jump onto a bus to get there (you can book tickets with Supratours online) or rent a car. The journey down to Essaouira by car takes three hours. Don’t even think of speeding, fines are handed out readily (and that very polite) by the police. You can go on a day trip from Marrakech to Essaouira but that is really a long day. There is so much to see, better make it a weeklong stay ….
1. Visit the harbour in Essaouira
Visit in the morning to see when the fishermen get back from sea and trading is in full swing. Watch out for seagulls and cats, as they try to get their share of the fresh catch. Did you know that it takes one year and six people to build one of these bigger boats? Talk to the fishermen and they will tell you all about it. The smell is a different story, and at times it feels like you are about to faint from that stench, but keep on going and be rest assured you won’t.
If you visit once more make it in the afternoon and you are going to experience it very differently, the light and the mood of the place changes in the course of the day.
2. Windsurfing, kitesurfing and surfing in Essaouira
Essaouira is called the windy city, and the strong trade winds along the coast are great in summer for wind- and kitesurfing. From October on it is apparently better for surfing when the big swell arrives. If you didn’t bring your own equipment go and rent it at one of the surf schools on the beach. Drive 20 to 25 kilometres south and reach Cap Sim and/or Sidi Kaouiki, drive 30 kilometres north and reach Safi.
3. Walk up to the 18th-century seafront ramparts called the Skala in the Medina
The view over the ocean and beaches and parts of the Medina are magnificent.
4. Walk through the Medina of Essaouira
Bring enough time to talk to as many people as you can in the walled Medina. Ask questions and learn about their products and their lives. Essaouira became World Heritage Site in 2001 because according to UNESCO it has “for the most part conserved its authenticity.” Have fun and smile. Visit at different times of the day, and don’t miss to visit the Souk where locals go grocery shopping.
5. Look at the former consulates in the medina of Essaouira
There are eight old consulates. If you are a fan of abandoned buildings, the old Portuguese consulate next to the Portuguese church is especially striking. It is at the end of the small Rue Ibn Zohr, a street named after a physician from Spain who died in 1161. Everything is padlocked and the cobwebs create a ghostly atmosphere. The buildings are fast asleep and probably wait to be kissed awake.
6. Have lunch with a view in a rooftop terrace cafe in Essaouira
Sit down and look at the ocean and sky and all of their combined shades of blue. The French attacked Mogador hundreds of years ago, and their culture is still everywhere. Order a crepe as a light snack together with a nouss-nouss (coffee with milk).
7. Walk through the souks of Essaouira
Take in the colour but also all the different smells especially while you walk through the spice and through the vegetable souks. Inhale deeply the smell of the freshly baked bread, walk on and dream how you would eat it dipped in Argan Oil until you get hit by the engaging smell of fresh mint that people buy from moveable carts. Eat bread from one of the stalls on the market when it is still warm. The streets are narrow, there is hardly any motorised traffic apart from a very few fast scooters, most wares are transported in hand carts. Often you see people or cats napping in these carts, after the job is done or until the next delivery. It can also happen that you will get run over by a cart if you don’t respond quickly enough to the “balek” (a type of “careful, get out of the way”) of a deliveryman.
The souks are an excellent place to buy a carpet … it truly is if you need one. Most traders are happy to ship them to your home. It is so very easy to fall in love with Kilims, and it is a great option to buy handmade Kilim boots and a Kilim weekender ready to use on your next trip. You can only win: you will have a souvenir, a piece of a Kilim and handmade shoes.
8. Look at street art in Essaouira
9. Essaouira - Make it all about the cats
Pet cats, count cats, watch cats play and take pictures of cats. It is all about the cats, and they are everywhere and in most cases up for a friendly cuddle.
10. Watch the sunset while sipping a freshly pressed orange juice
When the sun sets, find a place at the harbour wall just outside the medina. It is a gathering place, where parents let their kids drive around in miniature Porsches, young adults share secrets and teenagers take selfies with a burning sky over the Atlantic as a background. Buy one of the freshly prepared orange juices. Just another fantastic day in Essaouira.
What is missing? Looking forward to hearing from you.
From Berlin with love