"Essaouira pronounced Essa wera!" Top 5 Page for this destination Essaouira by suvanki
Essaouira Travel Guide: 491 reviews and 1,368 photos
I first visited Essaouira on a day trip, a place that I'd wanted to see after it was recommended by so many VTers! (JLBG was especially encouraging and helpful)
Well I wasn't disappointed, although a day wasn't long enough to explore this intriguing town.
Setting off from Marrakesh , we were soon into the countryside, where we passed through barren plains, interspersed with small villages, and towns. Our first stop was at Sidi -Mokhtar for a drink break, I had a glass of mint tea, while a local shoe shine boy patiently restored my boots to near new!
Setting off again, the countryside became greener, and we were soon passing by the famous argan trees. We were all trying to spot the goats climbing the trees, to feast on the argan nuts. Afraid, I was on the wrong side of the bus when one goat was spotted in a tree. Apparently, until recently, there was the opportunity to stop and take photos of goats in the trees, but this was stopped by the local authorities, who'd discovered that the goats were being deliberately tethered in the trees, by their owners in order to make money from tourists wishing to photograph this unusual sight.
We stopped at an Argan oil co-operative, to learn about the process of extracting the oil, for culinary and cosmetic purposes. Further on our journey we were shown the Thuya trees, which are unique to this region. The wood is crafted into gifts/ furniture etc by skilled craftsmen in Essaouira.
Nearing Essaouira, we stopped again, for a view over the town and nearby Ile de Mogador. We all took our photo's , and declined the offers from the waiting camel owners to have our photos taken on their camels.
Descending into Essaouira, we drove along the Atlantic coast, before parking near the ramparts.
Essaouira's history dates back to the 7th century BC. Evidence of Roman occupation comes from the fact that the offshore islets were the breeding ground for a mollusc, which secreted a purple dye, a popular colour for roman clothing.
The Ile de Mogador (named by the Portuguese) is also referred to as the Iles Purpuraires (The purple Isles)
In the 15th century, Portuguese conquistadors established a commercial and military base, which developed further in 1765,as its potential for being a main exporting town was recognised by Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah.
The French architect, Theodore Cornuts efforts resulted in the town being renamed Essaouira by the Sultan....the name means 'well designed'!
The name changed to Mogador in 1912, whilst under French protectorate, and declined in its previous importance as a trading centre between Timbuktu and Europe.
Independence in 1956 resulted in this attractive town being renamed Essaouira.
Our guide took us to the walls of the old town first of all, where we spent a while walking along the ramparts, exploring the nooks and crannies of the Skala de Ville (built along the cliff side as protection from invasion)
As well as great views of the rough Atlantic sea, crashing onto the rocks below, many cannons from Europe can be seen lined along the walls, pointing out to sea. Under the walls artisans can be spotted, painstakingly working at their crafts. It's also a favourite spot for artists of varying talent to work in the warm winter sun.
Essaouira (being 'well planned'!) is quite easy to explore on foot, however, there are lots of narrow winding alleyways that can be quite confusing, if trying to relocate somewhere you saw earlier!
The walled town is a great place to explore- the medina, mellah and kasbah areas all offer different characteristics. Our guide took us through the winding streets, where we saw the old buildings, those in the Mellah being identified by a Star of David engraved in the door lintel. We visited the market, where piles of fresh vegetables and fruit were displayed. Near the exit were live chickens for sale.
Heading into Place Moulay Hassan, pavement cafes were filling for lunch and musicians were playing to the assembled customers, we entered a Co-Operative. This was the place to see craftsmen working on the Thuya wood, and see examples of their work. All goods were fixed price, other craftwork on display too such as paintings.
We then headed for the Skala Port, where gulls circled overhead ready to catch a fish or 2 from the fishing boats moored up.
The rest of our group then headed en masse to a fish restaurant, before having a few hours free time.
I decided to forgo lunch, and have more time exploring, I wanted to retrace my steps and take photos of the streets and alleyways.
I hadn't gone far, before I spotted the fish grills, although I wasn't planning on stopping for lunch, I'm glad that I did, fresh sardines, and live music - a great dining experience- and no doubt cheaper than my fellow travellers' meal
I then spent an interesting couple of hours , wandering around and doing a bit of shopping, as well as taking lots of photos, playing a bit of football with a group of children, and being left to 'keep an eye' on the cd shop, while the owner disappeared for 15 minutes to get change!! Afraid I couldn't find some of the places I'd visited earlier- but there's always next time!
All to soon, I had to re meet up with our group, for the return journey to Marrakesh
On the way, we stopped at a pleasant cafe for a drink in Chichaoua, as the sun set behind the High Atlas Mountains.
** ** ** **
September 06 I returned to Essaouira as an overnight stop during a tour of Morocco. Again I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent here, exploring the streets and alleyways. Although Moroccan tourism is expanding rapidly, I hope that Essaouira doesn't lose its special character.
- Pros:An intriguing fishing port, lots of local atmosphere
- Cons:A day isn't long enough to experience Essaouira!
- In a nutshell:An attractive coastal town, well worth a visit!
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