Shannon Fennell's Blog

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My Moroccan Adventure: Essaouira

On April 1st we left Marrakech for Essaouira (previously it was known as Mogador which kept making me think of Lord of the Rings for some reason) which is a coastal fishing town/beach resort.  We arrived around 11 a.m. but were able to get into our rooms right away.  My room was on the ground floor and took me two minutes to walk to from the lobby… but it was definitely worth it! It opened up onto the courtyard and I had a table and chairs out there – sat out there for a fair amount of time as it was so pleasant and peaceful.

We were going to go on a tour later, but I had some time so I walked across the road to the seawalk – it is a beautiful spot, if a bit on the windy side. Lots of para-sailing and windsurfing. The hotel was directly across the street. You can tell the direction of the prevailing winds from the lean in those poor trees.

We took the bus around to the entrance to the old Jewish quarter, which is in the Medina in Essaouira. It wasn’t actually too far from the hotel. Outside the entrance was a sign – Najib said that they are doing some restoration of the Medina.

Essaouira Medina Entrance

Of the three Medinas we visited this was my favourite by far. It was busy with locals shopping, the streets were wider for the most part, it wasn’t as tourist oriented, and finally found real artisan workshops and art galleries where I could browse and NOT be harassed.

Buildings and the shops were bigger on the main streets, and along the alleyways were similar to the other Medinas in size.

And the food stalls were there too – I photographed a butcher and an olive merchant. It is very strange to see the meat and food all out in the open like this – with flies all over it. I will assume (hope) the hotel bought their olives elsewhere…

We were able to go into a woodworking shop to watch them and then through a showroom. And not once were we harassed to buy something. The work was beautiful.

It was also great to find actual art galleries with unique items. I ended up buying a watercolour painting of the Dades Valley in one gallery. The horse made out of spoons was really interesting and the folkart elephant was fun!

There were, of course, cats. There must have been something REALLY interesting in that sewer!

Some of the more interesting shop displays were of dyes and natural herbs and substances – note the sign for “Viagra Turbo pour Homme”… ?!

Najib then led us out of the Medina into a large square of more obvious European influence. This area was occupied by the Portuguese and the French at different times.

We then walked through another large square open to the waterfront and out onto the fortification Skala de la Kasbah built to protect the city. There are large cannons in place and the fishing boats harbour within the ramparts.

There was a hole in the wall of the fortification that frames the old town – they had steps so you could stand on them to get a photo. Of course I did.

Essaouira 3

There were stalls set up along the waterfront selling shells and fruit.

We could see our hotel from where we were and the seawalk went all the way along, but the bus was there so we loaded up for the brief ride back.

We were on our own for dinner that evening so quite a few of the group ended up at a waterfront seafood restaurant just a short walk down the beach. I ordered a smoked salmon salad and sea bream. The salad was good but I was disappointed with the bream – way too many bones AND scales!

I enjoyed the visit here a lot and I think Essaouira would be a nice place to stay for more than one night.