A UNESCO walled fishing town
“The Pearl of The Atlantic”, “The wind city“, “La cité des Alizés” better known as Essaouira is a town with many names. Since the 16th century the city has been named Mogador by the Portuguese and was known under this name during the French protectorate between 1912 – 1956. With the independence of Morocco, the town took the official name of Essaouira !
The origin of the name is believed to derive from Es Soueïra (in Arabic it means “the beautiful image”, or from the word elmoussawara meaning “the fortress walls”). This laid-back port city will show you another face of Morocco: seagulls, white and blue houses, fresh seafood served in family ran restaurants: we could almost think of being in Greece due to the wind and the colours of this fishing city!
Located just a couple hours away from Marrakesh by bus, or taxi, Essaouira will allow travellers to take (literally!) a breath of fresh air from the bustle of busy cities such as the neighbour Marrakesh; In the Medina you will experience a different shopping experience and it is even part of the UNESCO heritage. I booked an organised tour that in a couple of hours took us there.
Essaouira is very much a working port and a fishing town; nevertheless visitors exploring this location are attracted to its beaches, fresh seafood, and the Medina. The biggest attraction may be its relaxing atmosphere, and being a beach place it has a holiday feel about it.
The Medina and Souqs
Being a touristic village, prices are adapted to foreigners life standard: your wallet won’t be very happy but at least you will be spared the exhausting negotiations. The Medina is surrounded by walls and there are 5 main gates you can enter, it is car free and it’s also cleaner compared to bigger cities such as Fes or Marrakesh.
The souks are easy to navigate, and you don’t have to worry about getting lost. It is a relatively small area and you can explore at your own pace and it is pretty safe. Vendors sell Argan and rose oil to smooth and repair your hair and other natural cosmetics made of local products.
Essaouira’s medina is walled like many old towns in Morocco and the ramparts are quite impressive as they’re built on the cliffs. Locals and visitors alike enjoy strolling along the ramparts as the sun sets. The port is a busy port filled with fishing boats. A large fish auction is held every Saturday but watching the daily catch being sold every afternoon to restaurants around the harbor area, is fun to experience as well.
Essaouira is on the Atlantic coast and the water is pretty cold and not good for swimming; it’s also very windy. Not ideal for snorkeling or sunbathing but definitely recommended for surfing, windsurfing, or kite surfing . The 10 km beach is also nice for a stroll, playing football or for a romantic horse riding trip at sunset.