Saturday, 24 September 2016

Essaouira, Autumn Sunshine in Morocco

Essaouira Fishing Harbour ©Solange Hando

In the luminous bay of Mogador, an easy drive from Marrakech, Essaouira greets you with a pretty blue harbour and 18th century fortifications glowing honey-coloured under the African sun. It is all part of a World Heritage site celebrating this ancient trading post.

The trade winds from the Atlantic once brought merchants and sailors from far and wide and today they delight savvy visitors. They come to relax on the sweeping sands and enjoy some of the best wind and kite surfing along the coast. 

Essaouira Colourful Souk ©Solange Hando

Once a hippies' favourite, Essaouira is a sleepy little place these days except during the annual Gnaoua World Music Festival when the whole town vibrates to African beats.

Meanwhile, winter or summer, this sunny resort offers some of the best bargains around with almost no hassle at all. Best buys include rugs, wall hangings, traditional lamps and ceramics, thuya wood carvings and argan oil cosmetics. You can see the thorny argan trees on the road to Marrakech where goats clamber up the branches to feast on the precious nuts. 

Quiet Corner in the Medina (Old Town) ©Solange Hando

But most of all, Essaouira is a relaxed sort of place and just steps away from the stalls, there are plenty of quiet corners and alleyways where blue mosaics glisten here and there and craftsmen and artisans pursue their trade away from prying eyes.

Spices in Essaouira ©Solange Hando

By lunch time, the tantalising fragrance of Morrocan tagine drifts across the lanes and you may well be tempted to head back to the stalls and look for the best spices to take home.

They are surprisingly affordable, beautifully presented, and scent and colour are hard to resist. Bargaining is usual but as elsewhere in Morocco, be fair and know when to stop.

 Fish Restaurants ©Solange Hando

Between park and harbour, these blue and white casual venues serve an amazing array of seafood, fresh from the ocean. It's an absolute treat and one of the top attractions in Essaouira.

Time for a Siesta ©Solange Hando

Just don't expect the buzz of city life (that's down the coast in Agadir), but if you'd love a laid back holiday in the sun and a genuine Moroccan atmosphere, this little blue resort may be just right.

According to the locals, autumn is the best time to visit when the wind often dies down but temperatures remain pleasantly warm.

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