Essaouira

City of Essaouira

Essaouira (الصويرة) is a coastal city in Morocco. In addition to the new town, it offers a picturesque medina (old town) surrounded by seawalls and city walls, designed by a French architect in the 18th century, a harbor with fish market, and a long beach with numerous water sports opportunities. Once a hippie hangout, Jimmie Hendrix and Cat Stevens spent some time here. Orson Welles filmed part of his Othello in town; west of the medina there's a square named in his honor.

Get in

Please note: tickets are rarely available for the next departing coach. Try and book your tickets the day before, or further in advance during peak travel periods.

Get around

The walled centre of town, the Medina, is supposedly restricted to non-motorized vehicles, but this rule is widely ignored in the case of mopeds which are an increasing nuisance. Other than that, there are occasional donkey carts to dodge.

See

Essaouira is a perfect example of a late 18th century fortified town, with the original canons still in place and where Orson Wells shot his Othello, "The Moor of Venice".

Essaouira Bastion

Do

Boats in Essaouira Harbour
Essaouira gate and tower
Fort of Essaouira

Buy

Essaouira stores

Essaouira's craftsmen are renowned for their woodwork and lacquerware. Intricately inlaid boxes, chessboards and curios can be found for good prices in the city's hundreds of shops; however, beware that extensive deforestation is taking place in the area due to these woods not being replanted. Artwork of all kinds can be had here.

Essaouira inlaid wood market

Eat

Although Essaouira is on the sea, fish are quite expensive. Fishermen sell their catch through the market hall and you can have it cooked at the small stands nearby. Prices are clearly marked by weight on the large pricing board at the end of the fish market stalls, but this seems to make little difference to the chances of being hustled. Sample price: 5 DH for pack of fresh sardines (10 one of them) in fish market. Carefully evaluate how much you are being charged. A cheaper option is to buy Harira (a spicy soup) for 2-5dh or a sandwich (i.e. at Blue facade for 10-20dh, walking at the street from fish stands to the Medina). There are many reasonable restaurants and cafes on the main streets and squares. Upscale restaurants worth a mention are Taros (2, rue de la Skala Tel: 044 47 64 07) which combines a French-Moroccan restaurant, a gallery and a terrace bar with live local music and "5" (rue Youssef el fassi) for its elegant ex-pat vibe.

Drink

Mint tea is available for about 6dh all over town, or for free if you are invited in by any carpet salesman who will assure you you are entering "just for a look."

Some of the hotels have licensed bars, but it's hard to beat the terrace bar of the Taros (2 Rue de la Skala) for its view over the lively Place Moulay el Hassan and the harbour.

An off-license, the only one in town, can be found outside of Bab Doukkala on the Boulevard al Massira, to the right. Just inside this gate is the "black market" for alcohol on religious holidays and at night. Just ask the boys selling loose cigarettes!

Locals can be seen quite openly, if discreetly, to roll joints and smoke hashish outside cafes in the harbour and the people are generally very relaxed. It is highly illegal though and not recommended unless you're feeling very safe about it!

Sleep

If arriving by bus, local women will surround you as you exit offering discount riads or accommodation in their homes for as little as 150dnr (can be negotiated down to 75), though you will not get a view of the ocean for this. There are many hotel options available so feel free to bypass them. You can always return to the bus station and they will still be there.

Stay safe

Avoid the space cake dealers and do not let them fool you into thinking that it is ok for tourists to use small amounts of cannabis.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 22, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.