Essaouira: A pocket guide

On the Atlantic coast, between Agadir and Casablanca, you will find Morocco’s breath of fresh air, the coastal town of Essaouira. An old working port with restaurants lining the harbor, sparkling sand beaches, and an admirably relaxed pace of life, Essaouira is where Moroccans come to breathe. This battered and bleached town offers some relief from the bustle of the country’s larger cities.

An azure blue stripe bursts above the lush green olive groves that surround this wondrous seaside escape. Stark white walls stand boldly against the beryl hues of both sea and sky, and the gentle but consistent sea breeze winds its way up, along, and through the maze of adorned alleyways. The coastal wind draws wind- and kite-surfers who are keen to make the most of these top-class conditions.

Just three hours from the bustling souks of Marrakech, Essaouira is also home to a complex network of market stalls. Traders and craftsmen hurriedly hammer, hang, and barter their wares to any passerby who shows interest.

It was the Portuguese who helped put Essaouira on the map, trading gold, ivory, slaves, and spices acquired from all corners of the African continent. The spice trade continues to flourish in all its Technicolor glory and most markets display mountains of nutmeg, cumin, and coriander. Be sure to dine at one of the markets’ many fish stalls, where the local daily catch is grilled directly before you.

To wash down your lunch, head to the Caravan Café or visit the Taros bar and settle in for the afternoon, sipping on sundowners as the sun sinks into the Atlantic.

This windy city is both elegant and humble, a place of energy and tranquility where people live as they always have, working hard with pride and vigor. Essaouira is Morocco at its best.

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