Essaouira

The little beach town of Essaouira felt like the coastal equivalent of Chefchauoen’s mountain retreat. After spending an evening in Marrakech’s crazy medina, the cozy port town was a welcoming calm. Essaouira’s medina sits directly on the water’s edge. So close in fact, that while walking along it’s outer corridors, you can feel the ocean spray coming in over the massive walls. There aren’t many tourist sites in the little town, but you could easily get accustomed to the relaxing lifestyle the city offers. Strolling through the medina, a leisurely late morning coffee, a casual walk along Essaouira’s long stretch of beach, and a fresh seafood dinner at the port. It’s hard not to feel at ease in the little town.
I spend my one full day in Essa doing just that. It took all my strength not to buy half the medina as I wandered through spice stores and pottery shops. So I opted for a cafe au lait and some people watching instead. In the late afternoon I walked along the beach until I could hardly see the city walls anymore. I must have been lucky, because there was barely any wind that day. I’ve heard more than a few people complain about their beach walk due to the wind. Essaouira is known for it’s windy weather, and what’s normally a leisurely beach stroll can easily become a sandstorm, giving you an unwanted sandpaper scrub.
When I arrived back in the city, it was dinner time. I opted for the cheap, food stalls at the port; a “must” according to my guidebook.
I was feeling a little indulgent, and so figured I’d spend twice as much on dinner as I normally do. I walked up to one food stall that had a huge display of seafood, caught fresh that day.
“I would like 80 dirhams ($10) of food please. I’ll eat pretty much anything, so feel free to mix and match whatever you think is the best” the guy at the stall was so excited, since I was his first customer of the evening. He started grabbing this and that and putting it on a platter for me. Then he sat me down with a fresh salad and some bread rolls.
I think I may have underestimated how much food 80 dirhams was, because when my food started arriving I was overwhelmed. First, prawns. About 20 prawns on a plate were placed in front of me. Then came the fish: two massive sardines, and two other whole fish, splayed out and grilled up, were set down. Just when I thought that was everything, a bowl of calamari was given to me as well. How in the world was I going to eat all this?!
But I did, slowly but surely, one at a time. I read my book, and picked away at the tasty fish. The owner of the stall kept coming out and yelling at his staff, who were supposed to be coercing more people to have dinner, but who preferred instead to sit down at my table and ask about where I was from and how I liked the food. They would all jump up and rush around, yelling at people to come eat. Then the owner smiled at me and gave an exasperated sigh. I had to laugh.
When dinner was over I wandered through the medina again, trying to walk off the crazy amounts of food I’d just eaten. Before long I heard someone yelling.
“Hey, Canada!” I turned around to see Matt, an American guy from my hostel waving at me from across the street. He and an Australian girl were headed to a local restaurant to watch Omar, a local Moroccan they had befriended, play music. I figured I had nothing better to do than to join them.
The restaurant we went to was tiny. It only held about 15 people. The place was dark, and candle lit, and had a bench with Moroccan cushions all around the edge of the restaurant. The Aussie girl, Matt, Omar and I sat down for some tea and coffee and met up with Omar’s friend who would be playing with him. Then the show started. Omar played the guitar, while his friend kept beat on a drum and the two of them sang. The music was almost Latin sounding, with an African beat that was wonderful to listen to! They played for around 45 minutes, then sat back down to join us at the table. We chatted and played music into the evening, until I realized I was falling asleep and had to head back to the hostel.
I’m a little upset I had such little time in Essaouira. I could easily have lounged around the city for days. But there’s so much to see in the country, and my time is limited, so it was back to Marrakech the next afternoon!

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2 thoughts on “Essaouira

  1. Your photos are beautiful, Hilary! The picture with all of the little blue boats was taken at the exact spot where we found our little cat, Essa. And the man in the picture holding the lobster is the same man who was working in the the seafood stall where we ate, I recognize him and remember how friendly the staff were – they washed a cut that Paris had on her foot with fresh lemon juice. Great that you got a visit in this pretty little town!

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