Working for a tour company in Morocco, the obvious question that I get asked quite a lot is, ‘where is your favourite place in Morocco?’ I would say, without a doubt, it is Essaouira. I first visited this sleepy fishing village around 15 years ago, and to be honest, it hasn’t really changed much. Which, in this case, is a good thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I love all our tours, from imperial cities to desert and Atlas mountain stays. But, for me, there is something very special about Essaouira.
So, what is it that makes the place so attractive? Is it due to it being a real slice of history, yet largely untouched by the hand of modern tourist town development? The wild and unruly sea that provides the perfect backdrop for a stroll or a camel ride along the windswept sands? Or the laid back hippy nature that inspires artists and thinkers alike?
It’s these things and more. The medina of Essaouira is a UNESCO World heritage site and the place positively breathes with history. Artists of all kinds have fallen in love with the stunning architecture with Orson Wells filming “Othello” here, making the Portuguese ramparts famous in its opening scene and Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens have both spent time in Essaouira, helping to make it a hippy heaven. Accordingly, then, Essaouira is perhaps the perfect host for the well-known four-day Gnaoua world music festival which takes place every year and is packed full of bands playing everything from traditional folk music to rock and funk.
So, what would I suggest you do with your 24 hours in Essaouira? First and foremost, eat! Whether it be pastries from the best baker in Essaouira (possibly the World!) for breakfast on your balcony with a room with a view from Jack’s Apartments
or mint tea and homemade biscuits on the open-air terrace at Riad Kafila. Both are excellent places to stay whilst you are in town!
For lunch, you may wish to stroll along to the fish market where you choose freshly caught fish from that morning and your chosen lunch is grilled up right in front of you as you watch the hustle and bustle of the harbour. Or, perhaps you would like to take in the breath-taking views from Il Mare serving an array of Moroccan, Mediterranean and Italian cuisines? Of course, seafood is a must when in Essaouira.
After lunch, when you feel that you cannot eat anymore, take a wander around the winding streets of the little town which is well known for its local handicrafts, and is full of beautiful gifts and souvenirs for you and your friends back home. Or, perhaps spoil yourself and relax with a massage and traditional hammam. The hammam is a traditional Moroccan body treatment that involves, steam, scrub and massage of the skin. It is a treatment that is available to both men and women and you will feel absolutely wonderful after one of these sessions let me assure you!
So, to the evening my friends. If you didn’t make it to Il Mare for lunch, make it one of your first ports of call for the evening for a glass of wine or a cocktail as you watch the sun go down across the sea from the open-air terrace.
Or perhaps, Taros for a cold G&T to people watch at the lively open-air bar.
For dinner, there are several great restaurants that I enjoy, Laayoune for traditional Moroccan fare and Restaurant Des Reves with a large terrace serving Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes being two of the main ones that I try and visit when I am in town.
For a nightcap? Mega Loft. A wonderfully relaxed bar and restaurant. The food is fabulous; they serve a mean (non-alcoholic) mojito and the live-music entertainment is fantastic and lasts well into the late evening. What’s not to like?!
As always, our ‘24 hours in’ series is built to give you insights into places you may wish to build your long weekends/holidays around. Alternatively, we arrange day trips to Essaouira or perhaps you may like to visit the seaside town as part of our Atlantic Coast tours. Any questions about this, or any of the other destinations featured in our Blog, please do not hesitate to contact us.