- Ramparts, rudders and beach, beach, beach
- Coast life
- Windsurfers and wanderers
For all it has in common with other chilled-out seaside spots around the world – clean air, ocean-view restaurants – this old hippie hang-out is out there on its own as a surfer's paradise with a kasbah.
Clinging to Morocco’s Atlantic coast, Essaouira swaps the rose hues of the mountain towns for sparkling whitewash and blue shutters. The pretty medina is confined within solid great ramparts, and sidles up to a 18th-century military harbour. But both are dwarfed by the vast sweep of beach that runs along the approach to the city. In true Maghreb style, the sights to see are the quotidian ones: djellaba’d men whiz by on motorbikes, the port’s clamour competes with gnaoua-soundtracked cafés and the call to prayer – but forget comparing the pace of life of the souks here to Marrakech. Everything happens in a distinctly lower gear, and a wonderful air of insouciance prevails. Fish-fed cats snooze in carved Moorish horseshoe archways; graffiti is scratched on medieval doors; glimpses of shady courtyards and dim passageways lure you to yet another mint tea. Contented, cosmopolitan and cool without caring about it, Essaouira is a jaded urbanite’s delight.
Visit the women’s co-operative, where there's quality argan oil and cream for sale in Tamanar, about ten minutes walk out of town. And keep your eyes peeled: the locals climb up the argan trees and place goats in the branches for the amusement of passing camera-brandishing tourists.
- You probably won’t need any transport while you’re staying here, as restaurants and sights are never more than a ten-minute walk away, but if you do fancy a day trip, your hotel can organise you a driver.
- Tipping culture
- Leave the usual ten per cent-ish tip; give porters and anyone who helps escort you to your desired destination five or ten dirhams.
- Packing tips
- A cagoule or windcheater might not go amiss; water-sports fans should definitely take their wetsuit.
- Recommended reads
- Points in Time by Paul Bowles.
- This is the place to eat delicious fresh fish: calamari, lobster, sardines galore – and sea urchins for the more adventurous.
- The Dirham (Dh).
- Dialling codes
- The code for Morocco: +212.
- Do go/don't go
- The north-westerly winds can be fierce here, but this only makes it extra-alluring to windsurfers, especially between March and September. When Marrakech is at its most scalding in the summer months, Essaouira can make for a balmy alternative.