Visiting Morocco any time soon? Want to experience something other than the market hustle of the capital city Marrakech or the beach and resort spot Agadir, then Essaouira is the city to be. The city is small and humble, located by the Atlantic coast attracting windsurfers and making its name with their fishing port.
Essaouira : The City
The citadel of Essaouira or the Kasbah is surrounded by a fortress with four gates to enter or exit. Its main landmarks are two fortifications or skalas that were built to defend the city in case of an attack. When walking along the coastline you arrive at skala the Kasbah watching the waves crash into the fortification and its cannons pointed at the possibly arriving enemies. Skala of the Port lies right where the fishing port is and is not very far from the first one. The air smells properly fishy and you can purchase delicious seafood from the market for a relatively low price.
Essaouira is also known as the windy city, thus it attracts many windsurfers. As you walk around the wind blowing in your hair, you will immediately notice the blue and white colours dominating. Many doors and windows have been coloured or decorated with blue as well as their fishing boats. The streets are filled with small shops where you can bargain for all sorts of Moroccan goods. Besides the shops, the streets are also filled with cute cats and kittens. If you are allergic to cats, you better prepare yourself because you will meet a lot of those fussy little friends.
Essaouira gives you one of a kind cultural experience. Unlike some other places that are commercialized and put on a superficial show for the tourists only to make money, in Essaouira, you can really immerse into the local culture. Once in a while, you can see the locals stop for their prayers or traditionally prepare couscous meal for their family and friends. You can find authentic shops where all the products are handmade by the locals and they happily show you and tell you about the production processes. For instance, it is pretty interesting to see how they make their infamous argain oil.
The locals make an effort for good relationships. Even though their selling methods might seem very strong and pushy especially to someone born and raised in the western world, they still take their time to get to know you and have a cup of tea before making any deals.
You can easily find a local guide to show you around for some small tips. Well, you don’t really have to look for one, they will find you. I am not talking about any official tourist guides but just locals who freelance as tourist guides. If you’d rather discover the place by yourself, you can politely decline their offers. The benefits of having a local guide are that they know about places that the tourist offices or TripAdvisor doesn’t and the guides can get you things for cheaper, especially from the shops.
When you are visiting a spice shop you are probably wondering how on earth have they managed to make such perfect mountains of spices. There is actually a special sticky cone underneath and they have poured the spice on top of it.
Fun things to do
If you have had enough of strolling around the city and get a little tired of bargaining in the shops, there are multiple other activities to do. One of them is to go camel or horse riding on the beach. Camel ride is a nice peaceful way to enjoy the beach. The only scary part is when the camel stands up or goes down. Makes you feel like you are going to fall off. The whole ride is guided by a local while you can sit back and enjoy. If camels are too slow for you, rent a quad. The quad ride definitely gave me an adrenaline rush when drifting on the sand.
Hammam is perfect for a little relaxing. It’s like a steamy sauna where the local ladies can give you a hell of a scrub to get you properly cleaned out. I personally did not try it out, due to limited time I was forced to make some choices. But the other travellers told me that it is quite a unique experience and definitely worth trying it out.
It would be a sin to leave Morocco without trying out their delicious tagines. What’s nice about Essaouira is the fact that you can find many hidden small authentic places where to eat out. Instead of many overpriced touristy restaurants you can find spots where mostly locals go to eat and their atmosphere is completely different. They are often small and cosy; you sit on the cushions on the floor while you are waiting for your meal being cooked on the stoves in a tiny corner. And don’t forget to order tea. Their tea ritual that goes with the meal is very entertaining to watch.
When you are a cultural traveler and enjoy seeing the local life of another country, Essaouira will give you a very positive experience that will always stay with you. A sunny city with a very friendly atmosphere. Just be respectful towards their culture, their prayer rituals and dress appropriately, they will be very welcoming and kind in return.
Agnes was born and raised in a small country called Estonia. She fell in love with travelling as a little kid and has been seeking adventure ever since. If you would like to read more about exciting places she has visited, she is sharing her stories on lookathergo.com .
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