In March 2019 we launched our first TTT Tour. It was an unforgettable adventure that saw us take a group of intrepid female travellers to the dusty and intoxicating city of Marrakech, before finding blissful silence in the desert camp, La Pause.
It was a vibrant, memorable and beautiful trip, and one that left us keen to explore more of Morocco’s eclectic towns and cities. Filled with ideas of how we might extend our original tour, we arrived home and quickly began researching alternative destinations to complement the freneticism, beauty and heat of Marrakech.
With so many diverse and welcoming cities to choose from, it wasn’t an easy task.
Why Visit Essaouira, Morocco?
Although perhaps not the most obvious choice of destinations when compared with the blue hues of Morocco’s Chefchaouen, or with the old-world allure of Fez, there’s nonetheless something intoxicating about Essaouira.
Shaped by the strong ‘Alizée’ or Atlantic wind that blows through its brine-battered alleyways, this beach hugging city is both recognisably Moroccan and decidedly Mediterranean; a vision of bustling souks and blue shuttered windows.
Once a prosperous trading post – a place where gold from Timbuktu was exchanged for ostrich feathers from the East – Essaouira quickly rose to prominence under the rule of King Mohammad III. Strategically positioned between the trade winds of the Atlantic and the country’s most prosperous cities, Marrakech and Agadir, Essaouira was redesigned as a handsome fortress; a task completed by French architect, Thédore Cornut.
Within a matter of years, what was once a windswept and largely unoccupied village was transformed into one of Morocco’s most important cities; sand-coloured ramparts and city gates now encircling its medina.
What is Essaouira Like?
Today (and despite a brief hiatus as a French colony) Essaouira remains largely unchanged.
With its 18th century fortress still circling the city like a mighty snake, the place remains almost frozen in time; a proud vestige of Morocco’s prosperous past.
Head towards the atmospheric harbour and you’ll discover hundreds of colourful fishing boats moored next to each other; flocks of seagulls wheeling overhead as fisherman gut their catch of the day. Here, the air is salty and life seems largely uninterrupted by modern technology and machinery.
A short walk from the fishing port and you’ll discover the city’s impeccably clean beach.
Popular with both sunbathers and watersports enthusiasts (in terms of things to do in Essaouira, watersports is one), Essaouira’s beach – complete with fizzing foam and roaring waves – is almost reminiscent of the Algarve. Here, you can paddle with friends or enjoy a lazy lunch along the promenade, eating fresh fish and sipping on cups of delicate mint tea.
With the sound of the haunting call to prayer (or ‘adhan’) reaching the sandy shores, make the short walk back towards the city’s historic fortress; passing under one of Essaouira’s imposing stone gates. Now in the UNESCO-protected part of the city, Essaouira’s ancient medina (or ‘walled city’) will transport you to a different time entirely.
A vision of white washed buildings and azure blue frames, the architecture of the medina feels almost Greek – a much more refreshing aesthetic than the dusty red tones of Marrakech.
It’s also much calmer than Marrakech’s chaotic medina (and thankfully free of its petrol bikes). A walk through here is a taste of Essaouira nearly three centuries ago: a place of daily markets, talented artisans and the scent of heady spices.
Laid-back, prettier and (dare I say it) more enjoyable than Marrakech, it is this bygone coastal charm that makes Essaouira such an enjoyable place to visit.