24 Hours in Essaouira
Just a short 3.5 hour journey from Marrakech is the seaside medina town of Essaouira or ‘Sawirah’ as the locals call it, the port of Marrakech. A beach side blue and white town with a musical vibe, it’s very popular with people who want a change of scene from Marrakech, a fresh sea breeze and beach time, but don’t want to travel too far for it. It’s also a favourite with kite surfers, surfers, and more artistic travelers.
The town was once a Portuguese port, the city has a mixture of Portuguese style buildings and Islamic architecture. The recently renovated ramparts with their many watch towers and cannons surround the medina and harbor area and you can now get many good views of the sea walking around. It remains today an important fishing port and wandering around the harbour checking out the haul in the nets and looking to see what fish to buy to take and have cooked is a popular pastime for both tourists and locals.
Generally, the town is sleepier and more relaxing, there are many artisan shops and local argan oil co-operatives and nice independent local restaurants just off bustling local markets. It comes to life during the annual Gnaoua Music festival which is usually around June time. Gnaoua has its origins in the slave music of Ghana and is overlaid with Moroccan beats and sufi rhythms it’s great fun to dance to and features swinging hats and castanets.
24 hours is just about enough time to get a flavour for the town, if you have more time you can explore the surrounding areas and visit Les Jardins des Douars a beautiful Oasis for a swim and lunch in more rural surroundings, or head down to Sidi Kaouki or out to La Fromagerie a cheese-making farm and restaurant just outside the town.
The Epic Take on 24 Hours in Essaouira
Harbour and Ramparts
Go down the harbour after breakfast (or even before) and watch the fishermen reel in their nets and browse the vast array of fish and seafood which often includes shark and swordfish as well as sea bream and sardines. We recommend picking up some sardines and asking one of the local restaurants or cafes to cook them up for you, there is nothing like a Moroccan sardine seasoned with salt and cumin, served with crusty bread and a glass or two of mint tea or wine when it’s fresh from the sea.
Medina Tour & Shopping
We can offer tours of the medina pointing out the history and some of the better areas for shopping and browsing the many artisan goods on offer. It’s much easier to shop here than Marrakech because the souk shops don’t tend to hassle you quite so much so many people end up buying more here than they would in Marrakech. There are also local specialities such as intricately designed inlaid wood boxes, and parchment painting that are worth checking out while you are in the area and the silver jewellery is also of a very good quality. If you want to go upmarket you can try shops such as the concept store ‘Histoire de Filles’ which sells more boutique style clothing, jewellery and homeware and there is a stylish sister café next door which is nice for a flat white.
Beach Side Fun
If you’ve had enough of medinas and what you really want is some fun on the beach, kick back and hang out in Ocean Vagabond around which you can find many activities such as quad biking, surfing lessons, kite surfing, horse riding and camel rides. There are stables near the beach which we recommend for horse riders as it is better equipped and run versus picking up a horse on the beach where safety is less of a concern, but dashing through the waves on horseback is thrilling and you get to see the old Mogador prison island and hear the history about it on the way. Equally camel rides are fun and can be short or longer with a stop at Bob Marley’s café – the singer used to hang out around these parts which might explain the many reggae artists in the town. If all of that is too much for you, you can sit back and have a cold beer or glass of Champagne on the beach.
Flea Market Finds
Essaouira has one of the biggest flea markets every Sunday near the top of the medina and the harbour walls and running across many streets just outside the medina. There you can find second hand Berber jewellery, plastic shopping baskets, antiques, second-hand clothes and other bric-a-brac, its interesting just to see what people are selling. You might also find one of the fishermen’s cottages nearby selling outsider art – art painted by fishermen in the local area as a hobby – it’s quite charming and you will find it on many of the walls of properties and restaurants in the area.
There are opportunities in the area for weaving, making instruments or painting – or you could have a go at grinding your own argan oil. There are many co-operatives in and around Essaouira and some which are quite high end where you can learn about the oil and fragrances that go into some of the more luxury cosmetic and beauty products. If your hobby is photography – there is a lot to get your lens around, Essaouira has many old doors which are popular images as well as sleepy scenes of healthy looking cats fattened up by harbour finds curled up in flower pots or stretched out on doorsteps.
Essaouira is bustling with little restaurants and cafes, if what you want to do is relax there are also many upscale hammam experiences – so you can really take your time and unwind.
The fresh sea air is sure to make you a little bit sleepy! Or if you want a more hipster fun vibe with music you can check out Mega Loft by Othman Chic, 29 Rue Al Yeman which has good food, nice homeware, and live bands.
Whatever you want out of your Essaouira experience at whatever pace we can create it as part of your travel plan just give us a call +44 (0)208 150 6131 or fill in a contact form https://epic.travel/contact-us/