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Essaouira, Morocco الصويرة

January 27, 2020  •  3 Comments

When I was first told, “let’s go to Essaouira”, I was like.. who? That’s the expression that I get from everyone when I tell them of this glorious place I’ve been to. It’s not the first time I’ve walked on roads less travelled and I think that’s now my mission, as it allows me to see places that I haven’t already seen tons of pictures of or memories created by millions of others and I promise to not be like “wow this is amazing” to every place I go to unless it truly is.

I’d been to Morocco before – to Marrakech and Agadir. It was memorable but it not for the right reasons; I recalled being haggled constantly and stalked on occasions until I gave in and gave up my cash. I avoided eye contact and even exploring, which is a shame because that is why I travel. I thought I’d give Morocco one more attempt after being reassured that Essaouira is different. I decided to get there via Marrakech and as expected, paid double the fare for a taxi to the bus station(after negotiating). The bus journey was 3hrs, including a 20mins break in between.

I arrived at 11pm so I didn’t see much that night but what I did notice, was that the temperature was almost 20 degrees cooler from the 45C that I left behind in Marrakech. Navigating my way to the Airbnb that I stayed at was easy enough at that hour, without internet. It was a lovely Riad that offered breakfast in the morning.

APC_3248Inside a riad that I stayed in Essaouira, MoroccoInside a riad that I stayed in Essaouira, Morocco Hotel outside the Medina in EssaouiraStreets of EssaouiraHotel outside the Medina in Essaouira

 

The first thing I realised after walking the deserted streets in the early hours, was how safe I felt. Despite the dilapidated buildings and ruins, which usually lends itself to adversity, the people themselves were quite jovial and warm. Most importantly, for me, I wasn’t treated like a tourist that had a target on his back. That may, in part, have to do with the fact that I was taken for Moroccan on pretty much every encounter I had. That said, my friend that I travelled with felt the same so did other white travellers that we met. There weren’t that many foreign tourists if I’m honest and I was relieved that this wasn’t one of those sort-after destinations but it should be and at the moment, it’s my #1.

Streets alongside the the Medina in Essaouira, MoroccoInside the Medina in Essaouira, MoroccoStreets alongside the the Medina in Essaouira, Morocco

I keep describing it as something from the movies. Several come to mind: Game of Thrones, Gladiator etc. and most recently John Wick 3 which were all, in fact, filmed here.
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One with the locals. 🐈✨

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Essaouira CitadelEssaouira CitadelEssaouira Citadel, Morocco. Old brass cannons line the walls, and there are ocean views. Strong "Alizée" trade winds make the city’s crescent beach popular for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.

Essaouira Citadel and fishing villageEssaouira CitadelEssaouira Citadel and fishing village, Morocco

Wandering down the side alleys of the medina, you’d smell the fragrant air, enriched with flavours of local dishes. Mostly fish, which there is plenty of, as the Essaouira Citadel (Port) was just a short walk away so I took full advantage of the availability, at a very cheap cost. We settled down for lunch in a spot where 90% of the crowd eating were locals; it must be good.

Fish dishes at local restaurants in Essaouira, MoroccoFish dishes at local restaurants in Essaouira, MoroccoFish dishes at local restaurants in Essaouira, Morocco
Man cooking grilled fishCooking grilled fishMan cooking grilled fish outside a restaurant in Essaouira medina

That night, we discovered this nightclub of sorts which was not expected for obvious reasons. It seemed like a place for locals and visitors to mingle. The night started off with Gnawa Music and Dance. Described by the Lonely Planet as an “Afro-Moroccan group whose music, culture and traditions are the heartbeat of Morocco”.

Gnawa MusicGnawa Music and Dance PerformancesGnawa Music being played at a club and restaurant in Essaouira, Morocco

I leapt out of bed the next day excited to see what more I will discover inside and out of the medina that we stayed in. I must say that my favourite time to walk these streets was in the early hours.

Shops in the medina EssaouiraInside the medina of essaouiraInside the medina of essaouira where shops sell handmade craft
Medina of essaouira Medina essaouira Inside the medina of essaouira where shops sell handmade craft

medina of essaouiraInside the medina of essaouira where shops sell handmade craftInside the medina of essaouira where shops sell handmade craft and locals shop

These paths on the outskirts connect to a central spine where the souks are laced on either side; kind of like the main stretch, the center of the medina. It was really an experience shopping alongside the locals. In a lot of places, they don’t even haggle and whatever the price is, you pay it – whether you’re a local or tourist. I liked this.

Souks in essaouiraSouks in essaouira, moroccoInside the medina of essaouira where souks (Souq) sell food, clothing and other local items locals shoppingSouks in essaouiraLocals shopping at the Souks in essaouira medina souks in the medina of essaouiraInside the medina of EssauiraInside the medina of essaouira where souks (Souq) sell food, clothing and other local items

I never do tour guides but seeing as this one wasn’t expensive, I thought to give it a try. It was worth it – that bit of extra knowledge really extended my view of this place. Said represents Urban Adventures in Essaouira. Apart from being a super nice guy, he took me round to some spots that I walked past and didn’t even bother to venture into.

Essaouira souksInside the medina of essaouiraInside the medina of essaouira where souks (Souq) sell food, clothing and other local items. A tour guide showed me around Souks in EssaouiraSouks in the medina of essaouiraInside the medina of essaouira where souks (Souq) sell food, clothing and other local items. Here, two locals are seen chatting The top of a mosque taken on a rooftop of a riad in Essaouira.Rooftop of a Riad in EssaouiraThe top of a mosque taken on a rooftop of a riad in Essaouira. Rooftops in EssaouiraRooftop view of the Essaouira CitadelPhoto taken on a rooftop of a riad in Essaouira

interesting doors in EssaouiraDoors in EssaouiraThere are many old but interesting doors in the mellah or Jewish quarter, Essaouira, Morocco where the jews lived

The Mellah: Mellah is a walled Jewish quarter of a town, a ghetto. Jewish population were confined to mellahs in Morocco beginning from the 15th century and especially since the early 19th century.
The term mellah connotes not just the physical space where jews lived but also the communal space of the Jews. The mellah was usually walled with a fortified gateway. Frequently, the mellah was located to a corner of the city, having its own gates, allowing full segration between Jews and Muslims.

 

Jewish settlementShacks in EssaouiraShacks in the mellah or Jewish quarter, Essaouira, Morocco where the jews lived
As with every gorgeous day, when it ends, there’s(should be) a beautiful sunset by the sea. A bit more history about this village: ‘Essaouira was built as a coastal fortress in the 16th century by the Portuguese who held it for many years, despite the attempts of many other European nations to occupy it, until Morocco took it back as a main trading port for Marrakech. Its high walls and ramparts still protect the shoreline today; the cannons pointed at the Atlantic are constantly straddled by tourists looking for a photo opportunity. However, Essaouira is not a place of historical pilgrimage for visitors, but more a painful reminder of progression and waning heritage for local fishermen’ Extract. This is one of those places that I must visit again and encourage others that are looking for a chilled week in Morocco.

Fishing port in EssaouiraEssaouira CitadelEssaouira Citadel or fishing village. It is said that the port of Essaouira was founded by the Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah to punish the city of Agadir, where rebellions against the leading power took place. Soon after its foundation 1770 until the first half of the nineteenth century, the port was the most important trading port between Europe, Africa and the Americas. Mogador is the old port of Morocco but when Casablanca grew up to the North and Agadir to the South, it lost its status. The port has been enlarged several times since then. The most important 1915 and between 1924 and 1967 Fishing port in EssaouiraEssaouira CitadelEssaouira Citadel or fishing village. It is said that the port of Essaouira was founded by the Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah to punish the city of Agadir, where rebellions against the leading power took place. Fishing port in EssaouiraEssaouira CitadelEssaouira Citadel or fishing village. It is said that the port of Essaouira was founded by the Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah to punish the city of Agadir, where rebellions against the leading power took place. Seashore at the Sqala du PortSeashore at the Sqala du PortPhoto taken from the Sqala du Port Essaouira

 


Comments

Donovan(non-registered)
I spent 6 weeks here, November into December 2019 and loved it. It was everything I imagined and hoped for and much more. No cars, no drama, just cats and beautiful friendly people, plus the smells and sounds.... Heaven....going back to live full time. ❤️
JSyder Photography - Jerry Syder
This place is amazing my friend! I feel like I need to explore Morocco a bit more now
Sathya(non-registered)
Essaouira seems like a great place bro. Another reason to visit Morocco again
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