If there was ever a time we were grateful for having a flexible travel schedule, it was in Essaouira.
We arrived in Essaouira the day after our Sahara Desert disaster, having spent 8 long hours in a tow truck sharing a tiny stinky driver’s seat between 3 people in 35C heat. The idea of finally reaching Essaouira, one of Morocco’s famous coastal towns, was the only thing that kept us sane. Sun, sand, warm ocean… ahhhh! We were so ready!
But, Essaouira wasn’t quite what we expected. We dumped our belongings, put on our bathing suits, and headed straight for the beautiful long crescent stretch of sand, Plage Tagharte. We kicked off our shoes, stepped onto the warm sand and were immediately greeted by Alizée, Essaouira’s famous coastal wind, that works hard to ensure that this exotic destination does not turn into a tourist overrun beach town. Within minutes we were covered in sand, and the strong currents that accompanied the wind, made the ocean equally uninviting. This was our first and only beach outing in Essaouira.
But it wasn’t Essaouira’s beach that made us linger here for significantly longer than we originally expected…
Undeniable Medieval Feel
Walking along Essaouira’s ramparts, that date back to 18th century, we were immediately transported to the scenes of Game of Thrones that were shot on this very spot. (Season 3 Episode 4 where Daenerys meets The Unsullied Arm)
Misty mornings along the fortified walls were particularly striking. Uninhabited. Abandoned. Silent. Only the sounds of the waves smashing against the fortress and the lonely cries of seagulls permeated through air. It was absolutely magical!
The ramparts proved to be much more popular as a sunset spot, crowded with tourists on the hunt for the perfect sunset shot.
Laid Back Vibe
The medieval feel continued inside the medina, a UNESCO World Heritage listed city, that served as the hub of activity in Essaouira. We were happy to discover that despite the impressive size of the medina, it managed to retain its laid-back vibe, infused with a touch of intrigue.
We spent every morning enjoying our simple, yet delicious breakfast at our favourite cafe, Dar Mounia, taking our time people watching while sipping on our mint tea and freshly squeezed orange juice.
There was no shortage of shops to explore inside the medina (we kept going back out day after day) but unlike the attitude we experienced in Fez and later in Marrakech, no one hassled us in Essaouira. No one tried to show us around the medina or to lure us into their shops.
We took our time getting lost in the alleyways (as you do in any Moroccan medina), peeking into all of its nooks and crannies and stopping to say hello to many of the adorable stray cats along the way.
Flourishing Art Scene
At first glance the media of Essaouira didn’t look any different than any other medina in Morocco. Yes, it’s cleaner and it’s less touristy, but the carpet clad streets werere still filled with souvenirs pouring out of the shop windows. But it wasn’t all cookie cutter pottery stalls and rugs shop…
Roaming around town we were also pleasantly surprised to find out that Essaouira is home to many small arts and crafts businesses, art galleries, and unique cafes and restaurants. There is also a big women’s cooperative in town, making and selling organic Argan Oil, handmade bohemian style clothing, and textiles.
Lively Fishing Harbour
It was the last place we visited before saying goodbye to this medieval town, but one that left a vivid mark on our Essaouira experience. The port was flourishing with activity. Workers were deep in elbow grease, getting the fishing boats ready for tomorrow’s sail, while the fishermen crowded around peddling their daily catch.
The pungent fish aroma was impossible to escape, but the harbour filled with blue fishing boats rewarded us with plenty of postcard-worthy shots.
If it wasn’t for our flight to Romania, we probably would’ve lingered in Essaouira for a few more days, enjoying the town’s perfect balance of medieval charm, bohemian feel, and laid back atmosphere. But as all wonderful trips go, this one has run its course.
Essential Travel Info
Getting in: Essaouira is coastal town located some 200kms west of Marrakech in Morocco. The easiest way to get to Essaouira is via shared taxi from Marrakech, which you can join for only 80dh/seat. Alternatively, its is easy to rent your own car and travel to Essaouira on your own accord.
Getting around: The main attractions in Essaouira are the beach and the medina, both of which are easily accesible on foot.
Where to stay: During our visit in October 2016, we stayed at Hotel Sahara, a nicely decorated budget hotel located right at the entrance into the medina. We loved our stay but were dissapointed to find out that property taxes weren’t included in our booking price and that the final price per night was actually almost double what we had agreed to during the online booking process. Beware!