Formerly known as Mogador, Essaouira is a city in Marrakesh-Safi region of the country. Settled on the Atlantic Coast, the city has beaches to spend your evenings at and antiquated buildings to go exploring.
The new name of the city means “the little rampart”. The name is an ode to the fortress wall that still enfolds a part of the city.
According to several archeological surveys, Essaouira has been occupied since prehistoric times. It is considered as one of the finest Moroccan anchorages with peaceful harbors, protecting the city against strong marine winds.
Its very first trading post was of Arambys, which was established in the 5th century by a Carthaginian navigator named Hanno. Since then the city has been seen growing. However, its taros have allowed Essaouira to sustain its traditional culture.
For most of the year, the winds on the coastal lines of the city are so strong that relaxing on the beach is a complete task. However, many tourists come here for windsurfing, especially between April and November. Due to its coastal winds the world has given Essaouira the new moniker of “Wind City of Africa’”.
Those who are here to relax on the beaches arrives in spring and autumn season, when the wind is tamed.
Like many other cities in Morocco, Essaouira also has an old fortified city, called as the medina. This 18th century landmark was added to the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in the year 2001. Its admirable European military architecture and narrow streets owe more than half a day of trip. There are souks in the medina, which are filled with aroma of different types of African spices. Vendors can be seen selling daily utilities, tourist trinkets, famous Moroccan carpets, and handicrafts.
Apart from the markets and their line-up shops, the medina hosts several leafy plazas, small boutique cafés, and whitewashed houses with ornate wooden doors.
The medina is surrounded by the old ramparts after which the city has got its name. These wave-lashed tall walls can be recognized from the opening scene of Orson Welles’ 1951 film Othello.
Guarding the city are these tall walls standing strong at the coast of Atlantic Ocean. Built as a form of defense, the walls are still lined up with cannons facing towards the ocean. Their grandeur adds an imperial character to the entire city. Not only are these ramparts a walk through Essaouira’s history, but they also offer a wide view of the seaside.
Just behind the Sahara Hotel, located on Rue Mohammed Layachi, this art gallery exhibits the art of established and up-coming artists. The gallery puts on display both paintings and sculptures. And what can be better? It even sells some of these artistic pieces. If you are an artistic or an aesthete who has special interest in exploring different art-pieces by a number of artists, then this can be your go-to place in Essaouira. The artwork displayed in Espace Othello can vary in terms of interpretation and style.
The gallery opens every day between 9 am and 1 pm, then 3 pm to 8 pm.
Essaouira Beach and Water Sports
Clean and wide, the beach of the city is a welcoming place to spend the afternoon bathing under the sun and the evening, riding horses or indulging in water sports. The inviting water is sure to tempt you for a swim session.
When sunbathing and swimming become difficult due to the untamed coastal winds, you can indulge in windsurfing and kitesurfing. Even if you are inexperienced, you still don’t have to worry about anything. With plenty of surfing schools near the beach, you will be able to enjoy the extreme sport, fearlessly.
If water sports aren’t your thing, you can go horse riding on the beautiful coastline of the city. The pleasant climate and golden sand also call for a long walk. On the weekends, you will see a lot of people playing beach football.
Fish Market and Port
Essaouira was the Morocco’s main fishing port in the mid-1900s. Its large fishing ports are unmissable. Its authentic vibes, beautiful surrounding scenery, masses of blue boats, and fishermen selling fresh fishes make the place a noisy, pungent, and atmospheric space to spend the early hours of the day.
Walk a little further and you will reach the market hall just outside the port gates. This is the place where fishes are auctioned.
Annual Music Festival
This mystical and magical destination is where the annual Gnaoua World Music Festival is hosted. The eclectic fest is filled with rhythms of jazz, pop, rock and contemporary world music. The music festival stages the performances of Gnawa musicians. If you coincide your trip according to the fest, you’ll be in for a treat! Many performances do not even ask for a fee – they are free of cost!
Sidi Mohamad Ben Abdellah Museum
Named after the founder of the city, this museum is housed in a 19th century mansion. The gallery displays artifacts, artworks, ancient pottery and jewelry items as a tribute to the rich cultural history of the place. The museum is famous for not just what’s inside it, but also for the historic building. The beautiful architecture and the wide range items that have managed to sustain their original beauty together make the trip to the museum a worthy experience.
Famous Restaurants to Stop by for Delicious Food
La Table by Madada
Housed in an old almond warehouse, this restaurant serves the Moroccan dishes such as tajines and pastilla with a contemporary twist. The interior is a mash of traditional Morocco and modern Europe. The place is the go-to point if you are in for delicious and aromatic seafood.
This urbane eating point serves meal du jour, which means the menu changes every day. It is decided based on what is available and good at the souks. Fresh and full of favor, the meals are served with a Mediterranean accent. No alcohol is served in Loft.
Housed in a 19th century house, this restaurant serves sumptuous traditional Moroccan dishes, particularly couscous with fish and the tajine of sardine balls.