To Essaouira, you must go back ...
Today I take you on a tour of the Pearl of the Atlantic, Essaouira, a fortified city bathed by the ocean and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Understanding today's Essaouira has to begin by recalling its past.
Situated on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, providing drinking water, Essaouira has always attracted the covetousness of various sailors and explorers. Occupied or used as a resting base, excavations have revealed the passage of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans. Portuguese, Saadians, French, Spanish and English tried to seize the city strategically located on the commercial maritime routes.
Juba II, King of Mauretania, created a trading post and developed the salting industry and the purple extracted from a mollusc, the murex, which was highly prized in Ancient Rome, hence the current name of the Purpurary Islands. Today, this group of islets, where some uninhabited buildings still exist, is a nature reserve where the Eleonora falcon nests. This small archipelago topped by a mosque and a former prison decorates the horizon.
It is at sunset time that all the magic happens.
The establishment of Essaouira is the work of the Khalifa of Marrakech Mohammed Ben Abdellah in the mid-18th century. He made it a diplomatic capital by bringing foreigners settled elsewhere in the Kingdom. Jews and Christians will develop trade and contribute to the wealth and defense of the region. Sudanese slaves were used to run the sugar mills located in the region. A series of events followed, plague, attacks by tribes, looting, burning, and later bombings, marking the decline of the city.
At the end of the 19th century, Essaouira, under the French Protectorate, will be called Mogador and this new era will herald the end of maritime trade for the city. The construction of new ports in the kingdom able to receive large ships will take over the place.
Finally, from the 1990s, the city gradually regained its breath. Many investors, especially foreigners, restored many buildings by transforming them into accommodation structures. This air of youth awakens the curiosity of international and national tourism. Essaouira is reborn and becomes an internationally known seaside town where travellers love to stroll.
When you walk around the medina, history is still present. At the bend in an alley you can see a Jewish star carved in stone, find former consulates, guess the size of the houses of former merchants, visit synagogues, go to church, walk the walls decorated with canons and much more.
Essaouira is a multicultural city where tolerance, peace and coexistence are an art of living. The atmosphere is special, serene and quiet. It invites all travellers to let themselves be carried away by the chance of encounters and discover at their own pace the heart and soul of this authentic jewel of Morocco.
It is always a pleasure to walk on its beach, its streets and to meet its inhabitants who are open, quiet and friendly.
My favourite thing is to walk along the beach in the morning from my home, with my feet in the water, to enter the heart of the medina of Essaouira, to get lost and to witness the gentle awakening of the city. The shopkeepers are just starting to open their shops, the atmosphere is extraordinary. It's the perfect time to have a traditional breakfast at the Place aux Grains, or traditional crepes sold on the street. After a nice walk, it will be time for comfort. So why not try some sardines grilled at the port or, if you prefer to be comfortable, enjoy a magnificent grilled lobster drizzled with a good local wine, a Gazelle de Mogador for example, in the best fish, seafood and Spanish specialties restaurant in Essaouira: le Zahra’s Grill.
Essaouira has become a cultural and artistic city over the years and driven by the will of its inhabitants, Essaouira hosts several events: the Gnawa Music Festival (music born from the fusion of local rhythms and the music of slaves, declared Intangible Heritage by UNESCO in 2019), the Young Gnawa Talent Festival, the Atlantic Andalusia Festival and the Trade Winds Festival. It is also the location for several film shoots: Orson Welles with Othello, Ridley Scott with Kingdom of Heaven, Game of Thrones and most recently John Wick with Keanu Reeves.
There are many galleries housing works by local and foreign artists.
Handicrafts also have their place, cedar wood, silver jewellery, ceramics, raffia, leather and textiles are examples of what you can take home as a souvenir.
Mother Nature has also provided Essaouira with three important elements:
Essaouira is not limited to its fortified enclosure and its port. Essaouira is also 150 kilometres of endless and wild beaches. Among them, the beach of Moulay Bouzerktoun, a meeting place for the best windsurfers in the world. The local child, Boujmaa Guilloul, world champion windsurfer, contributed to its discovery and development. Sidi Kaouki is another beach located south of Essaouira and is ideal for surfing.
The hilly inland, strewn with olive, argan and cereal fields, hides small villages that celebrate authentic souks (markets) every week.
I could not cover everything, Essaouira has so much to offer, but I hope that through this presentation you will have the wish to discover this pearl.
Essaouira is bewitching, relaxing, surprising and sometimes even mysterious.
It leaves no one indifferent and you will understand why we decided as a family to settle there already 15 years ago.
When you leave Essaouira, the only thing you want to do is go back.
To be up to date with news and information about the city of Essaouira, you can download free of charge all the editions of the Essaouira Travel Diaries on the Vivre Essaouira website.
Thank you @Essaouira-Beachlife-Moro0 for such a calming topic and photographs.
I learnt Camels walk along the beach, I didn't know that.
I wonder, "what they are thinking as they meander along ?"
Nature & History are such beautiful things we should treasure more for current & future generations to see.
How far is it from each others homes in Morocco?
It's a pleasure for me to share the beauties of our region in Morocco.
The camels on the beach are always surprising the first time ! The sunset rides are amazing.
Maybe they think they are very lucky to be in Essaouira where the climate is pleasant all year round. They don't need to make large reserves to get through the hot weather.
Indeed Helen, History is our roots and Nature is our Mother. We need to take care of both at the same time.
Lovely NZ we had a very good time there 3 years ago. You have a so nice country !
We must wish the end of this crazy situation and travel again to enjoy all the wonders of the world and make new and enriching encounters.
Take good care of yourself!
How are you? I hope that you are well
I am living in Rabat and i visited many time Essaouira. For me it from the best cities which i like to see. Many of my guests, when they ask me, i propose to them to see Essaouira
Oh gosh I can almost feel the sand between my toes and the smell of the souk @Essaouira-Beachlife-Moro0 😍
Thanks so much for sharing. I've been to a few places in Morocco but I haven't made it to Essaouira yet - adding it to my travel bucket list!
Hi @Katie !
Thank you ! I'm happy that you liked it and that I was able to provide some pleasant sensations.
This year we have time to make lists of destinations to visit in the future. The day when we can travel with more freedom, the choices will be difficult but I hope you will choose Essaouira!
I hope if you come you will let me know!
See you soon !
What a great way to think about it - once we can travel we will be spoilt for choice, yes!
Where is next on your list @Essaouira-Beachlife-Moro0?