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essaouira things to do


A quieter Moroccan retreat than the likes of Marrakech,
Essaouira overlooks the country’s North Atlantic coast, and promises a mixture
of the familiar and the exotic. Its fortified walls and pretty harbour resemble
somewhere you may find in Brittany, though as you delve further into the town,
you’ll find it’s undoubtedly Moroccan, with its narrow winding alleyways,
aromas of spices and the sound of drums and Gnawa singing reverberating from
both houses and shops.

It has been described by many as the wind city of Africa,
and as a result its beaches are home to some of the world’s best windsurfing.
The charm of the town also lies in its traditional atmosphere, untouched by
tourists, and you’ll see this in the lively medina, the fishing harbour, where
the fishermen are always hard at work, and the woodworkers carving masterpieces
in their workshops. Here’s some of the places you need to visit while you’re in
Essaouira. For the best places to stay in and around the town, check out our
villas in Morocco.

The medina



The medina is the heart of many a Moroccan city or town, and
Essaouira’s is no different. Given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2001,
its walled medina with its 18th century style layout is a
well-preserved example of the European military architecture once built in
North Africa. Visitors will love exploring the medina and the colourful shops,
winding streets and whitewashed houses the heart of the town offers. The best
place to get great views of the entire medina are from the ramparts that
surround it, that can be easily reached via Scala de la Ville.

Ile de Mogador

Located just off the coast slightly southwest of the town is
the Ile de Mogador, which is in fact made up of two islands and several tiny
islets. The islands are currently uninhabited, and make for a great undisturbed
wilderness to explore. It’s slightly tricky to get there however – first you
will need to obtain a permit to visit the island from the port office, and then
ask one of the fishermen at the port to take you there in one of their small
fishing boats. The islands are home to Eleonora’s falcons, and it has become
somewhat of a sanctuary for them. If you can’t make it to the island, you can
spot these birds from Essaouira beach with binoculars. 

Essaouira Beach

The beach at Essaouira is where you’ll feel the bracing
winds the most, meaning that it is best for activities such as walking,
windsurfing and kitesurfing rather than sunbathing and swimming. If you’re not
up to walking, you’ll also easily find people offering horse and camels rides up
and down the wide, sandy beach. For a scenic walk, head south and cross the
Ksob River, where you’ll reach the Borj el-Berod, an old fortress and pavilion
often covered in sand. From here you can either proceed further along the beach
to the sand dunes or head inland toward the village of Diabat.

Skala du Port

Overlooking the busy harbour, the Skala du Port also offers
great views out over the fishing port as well as the Ile de Mogador in the
distance. Behind you, you’ll also see an impressive view of the walled medina.
Along with watching the boats come and go and the freshest catches being
landed, you’ll also see craftsmen building traditional wooden boats. These
boats are used not only in Essaouira but all along the Moroccan coast and even
as far away as France.

Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah Museum

Situated in an old riad, the Sid Mohammed Ben Abdallah
Museum is the town’s main museum, housing a small yet interesting collection of
treasures, which include jewellery, costumes, musical instruments, weapons and
hand-woven carpets. There are also small exhibits of Essaouira during the turn
of the century, as well as Roman and Phoenician artefacts discovered in the
bay.


Images: Youssef
Amaaou
, Patrick
Nouhailler
, available under Creative Commons

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