Beach chill out...Moroccan Style

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Sunday, July 30, 2006

He Said:

Essaouira (pronounced essa - weara) was originally established by the Phoenicians way back in the 7th-century BC but really grew and made it's fortune in the 1700's when it became the port where European goods were traded with gold, salt, and ivory from the caravan routes coming from Timbuktu. Most of the town that stands today was built during that time period. It has been used as a moviemaking location over the years starting with Orson Welles production of Othello in 1950's all the way up to the recent Orlando Bloom box-office bomb, Kingdom of Heaven where the town was supposed to represent Jerusalem during the Crusades. Since it is consistently windy, the town is quite a draw for windsurfing and kiteboarding (Jim and Lucy - possible honeymoon location?)

All that history aside, the real reason we came to Essaouira was to escape some of the heat from all the cities we've visited in Morocco, maybe work on the tan, and chill out a bit. So two days ago we took a bus through the barren landscape west of Marrakech to arrive in the heat of the day in Essaouira, thankfully it was only about 80 degrees, a welcome respite from sweltering Marrakech. It is quite charming and a really interesting mix of European and Moroccan cultures. I found it a little strange to see groups of fully veiled women window-shopping outside surf shops! There are some really historic structures in the town and it is perched at the edge of a rocky outcrop producing an absolutely breathtaking setting with the bonus of a really wide beach that stretches southward for miles. Plus it's not that often that Americans get a chance to see a sunset on the Atlantic Ocean!

Our time in Essaouira has been pretty much consumed with putting around the town, walking the beach, sampling the local cuisine, lounging in cafes over the great French pastries or gelato, and reading books on the rooftop patio of the hotel. This world travel stuff can be really tough business!!! Tomorrow we are back on a bus to Marrakech and then catching a train to go to Casablanca so we can fly to Tunis the next day. Look out for our closing comments on Morocco as well as a travelogue from our two-day visit to Tunisia to be posted in about four or five days.

She Said:

It feels like we have stopped traveling and are on a little vacation. Essaouria couldn't be more different from the other Moroccan cities we have visited - completely relaxed and full of Moroccan families on vacation. Just like any tourist town, there are a few things that local touts try to aggressively sell you. Here it's camel rides on the beach and, oddly enough, macaroons and Madeline cookies. I can't even tell you how many people want us to buy cookies off of plates that young men are walking around with. While I am a bit of a cookie monster, I have a new rule (the # of hands rule) in which I try to purchase food that I decide has had the least number of hands actually touch it (really a bacteria minimization strategy), and unfortunately, the cookies don't pass. There are also a lot of cats with 4 or 5 kittens that are "residents of the town." They aren't really pets, but they seem to be well fed and watered by restaurant owners and shopkeepers. Last night we came across a large pile of sheep entrails (intestines) on the sidewalk, put out as cat food. The cats seemed to enjoy it (almost as much as Todd enjoyed the sardines he had for dinner - my tastebuds haven't evolved there yet)! The kittens are so small and cute and are hard to resist picking up, which is saying a lot coming from me, being a hardcore dog person. Last night, I finally sat on the floor of a restaurant and played with a few of the cuties, mostly because I miss my dog.

We are feeling recharged after all the rest, cooler windy air, and relative hassle-free experience in Essaouria. It is definitely time to move on to some travel adventures tomorrow.
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Stuart Sutherland on

I enjoyed the posted comments about how relaxing Essaouira is and how it was a vacation within a vaction so to speak. I got a real chuckle out of that....given that I spent 6 weeks there around Christmas in 1974, during a 10 month trip through Europe and bits of North Africa. It was a pure R and R break from my travels at the time. I must get back sometime soon to see how much it has changed from my backpacking days, Here is a laugh for the youngsters today. Back in 74 I wanted to phone home on Christmas day and had to line up for over an hour before Christmas to make an appointment to return and make the call on the 25th, and then line up for the phone booth at the local phone exchange on Christmas day. (YES I SAID PHONE BOOTH) After doing all that and having the call go through operators in Rabat, Madrid, Montreal and then home, I listened while my Dad turned down the collect call because he couldn't understand the overseas operator. I went back to the beach. I don't remember being able to buy and consume alcohol in cafes back then. We could buy it at a little warehouse in a back lane and have it at the hotel which was just accross from the beach just outside the old walled town. Back then I don't recall a lot of overseas travellers, a few Canadians and Australians and some American Peace corp types living and working in the area. My one great memory is playing basketball with the locals a couple of times and soccer on the beach. Thanks for reminding me of my great stay in Essouira.

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