What to see in Essaouira, the white and blue city, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean?
We discovered it during our tour in the south of Morocco, in August: it was the last stop of the trip and we felt incredible emotions. Probably for the bright colors of the fabrics of the medina, the air of the port full of salt, the garrito of seagulls, the wind that mounts the waves.
The Medina, become a part of Unesco heritages in 2001, is crossed by two main roads, the one connecting Bab Marrakech to the Ocean and the other connecting Bab Doukkala to the port. The tour that I suggest you, starts from the Bab Marrakech, near the hotel where we stayed (if you’re in the mood for a romantic weekend, exotic and with a touch of elegance, book the Heure Bleue Palais). In the Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador) is almost impossible to get lost. This is because it is an example of 18th-century European architecture very well preserved.
Walk along Rue Mohammed el Qorry, a street full op little shops, carts for street food selling msemmen (Moroccan bread), snail soup, brochette (skewers with lamb and beef, roasted at the time), prickly pears and orange juices. This immersion in the aromas and flavors of the city is just the first taste of Essaouira’s cooking and will prepare you for the second unmissable experience, as soon as you cross the Avenue de l’Istiqlal.
Turn right and immerse yourself in the souk of Essaouira, zigzagging among the tailors, blacksmiths and tanners workshops, concentrated around the fish market square. The avenue ends on Bab Doukkala, another of the city gates. Cross it and, immediately to the left, you will reach a fracture in the walls. From that point, you can go down to the beach and take a walk, admiring the fortification in perfect condition surrounding the city. Return to your steps until the intersectionand immerse into the world of Essaouira’s argan!
Young women will explain in the shops the wonders of the oil for aesthetic application and less known culinary use. Plan a tour in the area in which the Argan grows (the Souss region, southwest of Morocco), proclaimed by UNESCO the Biosphere Reserve. There, you will get in touch with one of the cooperatives employing women to work on the product and will discover the goats climbing argan trees for eating the fruits!
At the end of Rue Abdelaziz let yourself be guided by the sea that crashes on the rocks, practically in front of you, just beyond the ramparts and admire the Sqala!
Anything else to see in Essaouira?
If instead you want to postpone the meeting with the Ocean, cross the intersection and continue on Avenue de l’Istiqlal. Just at the beginning of the road there is a little alley called Rue de Tanger where a mini-jewelers district is crowded. Continue to walk, you will meet the Horloge de Essaouira and, on the right, one more door, Bab El Mechouar. Cross it and reach Place Moulay Hassan.
This large pedestrian square overlooking the ocean buzzes with people at all hours of the day and in the evening. Here, many people sit at the tables of the bars while others stop to listen to street artists who perform in turn.
The port is the most photogenic place in the city thanks to the blue boats moored at the pier and to the fishermen who unload the fish, or sell it or mend long red nets. The chaos reigning at the harbor, the strong smell, the puddles of filthy water are the life of Essaouira.
The Castelo Real de Mogador (perfectly set with its decadent charm in this strip of town) and the Sqala du Port, the bastion surrounding the city, loom over the port. Visit the Sqala to enjoy a splendid view of the city and to take the classic photo that frames Essaouira in a hole in the fortification.
Last thing to see in Essaouira is the city beach, a meeting place for locals who crowd it to spend long days at the beach, to let the children play football or roam freely on the sand.
How to get to Essaouira?
The airport of Marrakech is “only” 180km (about 2 hours by car, there are NO trains connecting the two cities). Check out a transfer for about 700 dirhams with a grand taxi (€62). Alternatively, contact the agency Oasis Mogador Tours (we have experienced it) that has new and comfortable cars equipped with air conditioning. Bargain in advance for having a better price (we paid 1000 dirhams -about 88€).
If you want to spend much less, you can get to Essaouira in three hours from Marrakech with an excellent Supratours bus (consult the ONCF site, the Moroccan railways, for timetables and prices – on average between 80 and 110 dirham = between 7 and 10€).