Picture yourself in a breezy coastal town full of art, restaurants, amazing people and a long stretch of sand. Add surfers, a few horses and camels on the beach and the aroma of tagine in the air and you’ve found yourself in the enchanting city of Essaouira, Morocco. Like the rest of Morocco’s famous cities, Essaouira is full of history. However, archeologists have found evidence that it was inhabited since prehistoric times! Countless European countries have tried in vain to recolonize the region over the last few centuries. Portugal established a military base here and named it Mogador in the 15th century but the town itself wasn’t built until around 1760. Essaouira was actually still called Mogador up until the 1960s. Now it’s a beautiful Moroccan city attracting many artists, painters, and musicians from all over the world.
Getting There + The Argon Tree Region:
Essaouira is located on the western Atlantic coast of Morocco about 3hrs west of Marrakech. We went to Essaouira on a private day trip by car with a tour guide who gave us tons of information along the way. The best part of the ride was driving through the region where Argon trees grow. This is the only place in the world where you will find these trees. We stopped at a shop that sold organic argon oil and argon oil products such as face masques, shampoos, and even honey! I definitely recommend stopping here to buy a few things but keep in mind that the organic stuff will be much more expensive than what you might find at the markets – but probably worth it.
An interesting fact I learned from our driver was that goats actually climb the Argon trees to eat the leaves and fruit. While this is a natural habit for them – there are some people who are taking advantage of this and physically placing many goats on one tree – even on the highest branches – and forcing them to stay up there for the entire day with no rest, food or water. They do this to create a tourist attraction so passersby can stop and if they want to take a picture with the tree they would have to pay. I consider this to be animal cruelty and it really broke my heart to find out this was happening. I passed by TWO trees that were like this and I couldn’t even imagine how scared and thirsty those poor goats were up there. I took the picture below from the car window. But you can see how high up some the goats were compared to the people standing below. I urge anyone driving through here to not stop. If the people doing this don’t make any more money off of it, hopefully they will stop and the goats can just be goats!
Let Essaouira Enchant You:
We only had about 2.5 hours to spend walking around the Medina so we didn’t get to see everything. Essaouira is a port city but also a resort city. Like many of Morocco’s Medinas, the old Medina in Essaouira is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are numerous art galleries and jewelry shops through out the city. It used to be a hippie’s mecca back in the 1970s and is still very much an artists’ town and attracts many independent travelers. Food is really inexpensive if you buy something quick from the many hole in the wall stalls through the city. I got a falafel, soda & fries for 10 dirhams (about $1)!
I could tell just by walking around that it’s a very laid back city and a perfect place to run away to if you just need a break or love seafood! For all you music lovers out there, Essaouira hosts the Gnaoua Festival of World Music, normally in the last week of June. It brings together artists from all over the world. Although focussed on gnaoua music, it includes rock, jazz and reggae. It’s been dubbed as the “Moroccan Woodstock” and lasts four days. My favorite part of Essaouira were all the amazing doors I saw everywhere. So That’s what I took pictures of haha! Also, the people were really nice here as well. I would definitely come back.
I would urge anyone planning to visit to at least spend a day and a half or more to really take in the amazing scenery and beach activities like windsurfing and camel/horseback riding! I would definitely come back and spend a few days here just to relax. Although there are may coastal cities around Morocco, I think Essaouira would be the best if you’re looking for a relaxing getaway without the hoards of tourists or even a romantic laid back retreat. There are many boutique hotels in the Medina and for the luxury traveller, there is also a Sofitel with a golf course right on the ocean.
As always, thank you all so much for reading and let me know what you think in the comments section below! Love you and I can’t wait to tell you guys about Marrakech next!
Sultana Aslamkhan ❤