Essaouira is a charming walled town, its port dominated by a fairytale fortress, its narrow streets, with their brightly painted buildings, home to artists and craftsmen. There are some great restaurants – and seafood is a particular speciality.
A thriving trading port since ancient times, and a gateway between Africa and the Occident, Essaouira was a prized conquest. It was the Portuguese who built the imposing Castello Real in 1506, and Sultan Mohamed Ben Abdellah who had the commercial port built in 1765. For the Romans it was the centre of the trade in a distinctive purple Tyrian dye, and since that time it has attracted craftsmen of international renown.
Today, it is renowned for its marquetry of the rare and beautiful wood Thuja, as well as jewellery, pottery, leather and weaving. The narrow streets of the medina and the souk are a great place to wander and browse at leisure for unusual souvenirs.
In the 1950s and ‘60s Essaouira began to attract bohemians, artists and musicians who were drawn to its laid-back atmosphere and alternative culture. Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley were frequent visitors. Their legacy is the Gnaoua World Music Festival which takes place in late June and attracts artists and guests from all over the world.
These days, Essaouira also attracts a more sporty crowd, drawn by its international reputation for excellent conditions for wind-surfing, surfing and kite-surfing. These same trade winds mean that the beach is really too blustery for relaxed sunbathing.
Transfers and Distances
Approximately 3 hours transfer from Marrakech airport to the town centre.