If I were the only one who set up our travel itinerary, it would definitely include nothing but spending forever and a day next to a pristine water body in a tropical island, napping, plus an endless supply of mojitos and churros for the entire holiday. And that is exactly why Nico does not trust me entirely with the honorable task…
However, as a notorious beach sucker, I always try to have a moment by the beach whenever we travel and this Moroccan trip was no different. The thing is, Moroccan beaches boast a different exotic vibe than their tropical counterparts. Moroccan beaches are known to be windy, so windy that it makes a good environment for world-class windsurfing. I’ve been warned that the beaches are not like what I have in mind where I can frolic like nobody’s business in my
spandex underwear bikini.
We went anyway....
We chose to visit Essaouira, formerly known as Mogador; a historic walled town by the beach, located 3 hours west from Marrakech by intercity bus. As you may have read about our trip in Marrakech, it drained my energy, so getting away to a calmer city by the beach sounded like a perfect escape. What kind of people needs an escape from their escape in another country?
As soon as we got off the bus, we took a taxi going directly to the Medina. Like any other Medina in Morocco, the place was vehicle-free. The taxi dropped us at Bab Doukkala or the gate to the Medina and we continued on foot. The Medina in Essaouira is tiny compared to the one in Fes or Marrakech and you can easily discover everything in a day or two.
After dropping our backpacks at the hotel, we took a stroll around the Medina. I love how peaceful this Medina is; clean, tout-less, and nobody trying to show you where the tanneries are (there are no tanneries nor those annoying unsolicited guides). All there is are small shops, fat cats, and copious amounts of seagulls.
The seagulls mostly plague the harbor where the fisherman cleanup their catch in the open, which means fresh all-you-can-eat buffet for the seagulls.
Despite the constant fear of getting pooped on by
a thousand seagulls flying right above our head and the pungent smell from the fishermen’s daily catch, walking around at the port was very fun, frankly.
There were hundreds of small blue boats parked along the harbor while the fishermen display whatever the catch of the day right on the dock itself. You could find any kind of seafood there with good prices. That is why seafood dishes are cheap and extremely good here.
Apart from the fancy-pants kind of seafood at the big restaurants, our fav food here happened to be the fried small sardines at the small shop in the Medina and the takoyaki from the one and only takoyaki stall in the city.
Scala the Port
Scala the port or the fortification around the port/harbor area is one of the iconic sites in Essaouira. This fortress is dated since the 16th century, was first built by the Portuguese conquistador and named as Castelo Real. Later in history, this fortress fell on the hands of the local, destroyed and then reconstructed as Scala the Port by the Alaouite dynasty in late 17th century. This fortress is now conquered by the seagulls.
What also lovable of this hassle-free Medina is the fact that it has wide and clean cobblestones walk with no maze-like route. The buildings are old and rustic.
It has all kinds of shops you can imagine, from fresh ingredients to fabric, and also the traditional pharmacy that we all need.
The rampart was one of the main attractions of Essaouira, especially it was where one of the Games of Thrones scene was taken, I am not trying to sound nerdy here, but it was the scene on Season 3, Episode 4, when Daenerys meets with the Unsullied army. Unfortunately, the rampart was under reconstruction when we were there. Bummer!
IMHO, the beach in Essaouira is not the best place to beach-bumming due to the strong wind. The main attraction on this beach is to watch the wind-surfers (try to) take off. It’s pretty entertaining.
From the beach, you can see the Mogador Island where the Roman merchants were once settled in. You can visit the island with official authorization since it is now designated as nature reserve.
I like the other part of the beach better, the part where it is rocky and full of live. Poke any holes in the rock and a habitant will pop-up, annoyed. Like this hermit. I make an annoying neighbor for smaller creatures.
Little Tips On Visiting Essaouira
How to get there: we took CTM intercity bus from Marrakech. It cost us around 10$ each, one way. Pretty cheap considering the comfort and the distance. It takes about 3 hours with 1 stop midway for toilets and reload snacks.
How to go around: all you need to see and do situated in or around the Medina so if you stay in the Medina, everything is approachable on foot.
Where to eat: on lunch time, go to the Medina and eat at any busy food stall full of locals, or simply go to the outdoor fish grill stands that lined up neatly next to the port.