Introducing holidays to Essaouira
Well down the wilder Atlantic coast of Morocco, Essaouira is one of the country’s nicest beach resorts. You’ll love the historic city walls, a lively art and cultural scene, and good access to attractions like Casablanca and Marrakech, in a lively city that’s much more than just a tourist town.
The beach here is beautiful, but one of the reasons the town is so popular is the wind that occasionally whips it. It’s brilliant for wind- and kite surfers but not so hot for sunbathers and swimmers, though there are other less windswept beaches nearby. Essaouira has always been an attraction for ex-pats and there now exists an interesting combination of inhabitants from locals to British or American ex-hippies who have made their home here. This gives the town a fascinating multi-cultural feel.
The fishing harbour is small but still very much alive, and the walled Medina (the Old Town) is well preserved enough to be protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In fact, even first time visitors can get a sense of déjà vu in Essaouira, which has been used as a film set from the days of Orson Welles’ production of Othello to the city’s current role as Astopor in Game of Thrones.
Life’s a beach
Though the coast around Essaouira sweeps into a beautiful natural harbour, the waters off the city’s beach can be challenging – that’s why they’re so loved by water sports buffs. If you haven’t brought a wetsuit you can still have a lovely, tanning time on Essaouira’s sands, but you might need to shelter from the wind from time to time.
The good news is that the whole Atlantic coast of Morocco is a world-class beach destination and what you don’t find on your doorstep won’t be far away.
For the ultimate romantic seashore walk, head to Diabat, where a ruined fort and an abandoned village have a real touch of magic to them. Magic that may have inspired Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens or Frank Zappa, who are among the hippy tourists to have called in. Sadly, Hendrix came two years after he’d recorded the song Castles in the Sand, but that doesn’t stop local businesses proudly claiming its local origin.
The Medina should definitely be the top of your must-see list in Essaouira. If some tourists complain of being overwhelmed by big city medinas and markets, then Essaouira provides a more laid-back and manageable experience that’s genuine enough to be protected international heritage. This very alive part of the city is a brilliant place to dine on locally caught fish and pick up fantastic quality arts and crafts.
Wind surfing used to rule the roost on Essaouira beach, but now has competition from kite surfing. If you love active water sports, you’ll be in heaven here. And while Essaouira beach isn’t the best surf spot on the coast, nearby Point Imsouane and Taghazout are internationally known for their waves.
Dunes, woods, forests… there are a lot of unique environments around Essaouira, and exploring them is a brilliant way to understand the place. Tours from the city may introduce you to a camel – though it might be a quad bike these days – and will certainly show you to some beautiful views and disappearing ways of life.