Travel tips: Essaouira is Morocco-lite. Its an easy landing spot if you don’t want to be full frontal medina-ed immediately. And its got great sea-breezes.
Essaouria is Morocco’s beach-side resort of choice, where Moroccans come in the summer to cool down, eat fresh fish and take long walks on the beach. Interested in Morocco, but slightly nervous about your first visit? Start here. Why? Here are six reasons.
- Essaouria is Morocco-lite. The traders and shopkeepers are so laid-back they can barely hard-sell. You may even have to encourage them to make the effort by going in their shop and rattling around in their bins. No one will try and force you to buy three carpets over a cup of tea. The quiet medina is a breeze to navigate and touts and hassle are few.
- It’s cruisey and eclectic. Hippies, fishermen, shop-keepers, kids, snack-vendors, porters with wooden-carts, beggars, artists and buskers. Dress code is burkas, shorts, Bob Marley t-shirts, jeans, hijabs, Berber gowns, suits, tracksuits…if you don’t fit in here, I’m not sure what you wear normally.
- It’s a cool port. Essaouira is still at heart the rough little fishing village it’s been for centuries, with some seriously gorgeous formidable ancient city ramparts and a windy long deserted beach stretching south. From the 1770s to the end of the nineteenth century, Essaouira was Morocco’s principal port. The caravan trade brought goods from sub-Saharan Africa to Timbuktu (in what is now Mali), through the desert, over the Atlas mountains to Marrakech and through Essaouira to the world. And you can roam around all over it!
- The beach is long, clean and quiet. You can walk for hours down the beach, Atlantic on the right, dunes, scrub and expanse of nothingness to the left. Apart from Berbers riding their horses and trying to get tourists to take a camel ride, there’s no traffic.
- The weather is refreshing. Essaouira doesn’t get above 24 degrees in summer and in the spring, it’s actually chilly when the wind blows (which is constantly). Wet-suited kite-surfers hang-out in the cold Atlantic waters most of the year. When we were there in March, a few hardier women tried to sunbathe in bikinis. If you want to ease into the heat of the interior, this is a great place to start.
- Enjoy small-town Moroccan life. Walk the back streets, it’s safe and quiet. You’ll see some of the same blue-painted walls that Chefchaouen is famous for. You’ll find little cafes, there is a local bar (Bar Hafra) and outdoor coffee joints round large squares where local sand travellers can sit and watch life.