With its whitewashed buildings with blue shutters, colossal seagulls, and cobalt blue skies more often than not, the walled town of Essaouira, also known as Mogador, is an easy weekend escape from Marrakech.
A few hours drive away, on the Atlantic coast, a stay in Essaouira is all about the beach and sea: wandering down to the port to watch the sailors unload their catch from their bright blue boats, feasting on sublime fresh seafood in charming restaurants such as Chez Sam, and strolling the Corniche with the locals in the late afternoon.
After that, it’s all about kicking back in the compact medina, exploring its labyrinthine alleyways, browsing its myriad carpet, silver jewellery and jellabiya/babouche shops, chatting to the local Bob Marley/Jimi Hendrix wannabes in the music stores, or watching a band from a rooftop bar after dark. Essaouira is home to an annual summer gnaoua festival and has a bit of a music scene.
There are no real sights to see other than the scala, so no real pressure to keep to any kind of pace – other than slow. Whereas the medina of Marrakech is crazy and chaotic, its people always in a hurry, and the market touts increasingly more aggressive, Essaouira’s tiny old town is low-key, the pace unhurried, and its people as laidback as they’ve always been.
We became smitten with Essaouira the first time we visited when we backpacked Morocco 12 years ago, and we fell in love with the petite port town all over again when we returned five years ago. For us, it’s impossible to come to Marrakesh without seeing Essaouira, which is why we broke our two-week per destination rule – so we could show you Essaouira.
We are staying in another HomeAway riad, Dar Lazuli, a cosy, cute three-storey place with rustic-chic décor and two rooftop terraces with views over the medina rooftops. We’ll show you our little home and more of Mogador tomorrow.