In the 19th century, the walled coastal city of Essaouira was Morocco’s main seaport, connecting trade routes through the Saharan hinterland with the rest of the world.
Essaouira was revived in the last century by Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah (1710-1790). He established a large Jewish quarter and commissioned French engineer Théodore Cornut to design Vauban-style walls built from the ruins of Portuguese castles.
These royal batteries are still intact today and formed the basis for movies and TV shows like Game of Thrones.
Essaouira sits at the tip of a sandy bay, battered by the trade winds that keep many kitesurfers flying.
1. Essaouira Medina
Protected from the sea by the Great Wall of the 18th century, Essaouira’s Medina is a fortified town with European military buildings in the Maghreb context.
This has earned it a United Nations Economic Cooperation Organization World Heritage status, not least because of the many reminders of how multicultural life was on these narrow, winding streets after Mohammed ben Abdallah’s reconstruction of.
Berbers, Arabs, Europeans and Africans live side by side, and the large Mellah (Jewish quarter) has two cemeteries and several synagogues that you can visit.
The medina is smaller and less chaotic than its counterparts in Marrakech and Fes, while shopkeepers and restaurant peddlers are generally less aggressive and less dangerous to get lost.
Suggested Tour: Essaouira: Half-Day Guided Tour of the Old Town
2. Sqala du Port
Sqala du Port is a long artillery platform, built in the style of the Vauban fortifications of 1769, under the watch of a square tower with a batizan. The platform protects the port with two 200-meter platforms, leading east from the Bab el-Marsa gate to the tower, and then south to the circular fortress of Borj el-Barmil.
The tower can be zoomed for a complete view of the city walls and port with its swarms of blue wooden ships.
Prodding between the pheasants are original 18th-century bronze cannons, mostly cast in Spain and the Netherlands.
This thrilling scene was set in Orson Welles’ Othello in 1951, as well as the slave owners’ city of Astapor in the third season of Game of Thrones.
3. Sqala de la Kasbah
On the two floors at the northern end of La Scala, the Sqala de la Kasbah was built a little earlier in 1765 on an axis next to a rocky outcrop struck by the Atlantic Ocean.
At the top is the fort of Borj Nord, with arches and Batizan, you can explore around.
As for the battery, it was equipped with dozens of bronze cannons, cast in the cities of Barcelona and Seville between 1743 and 1782. The cannons are 3.25 meters long and, like their neighbors in Sqala du Port, have a range of 1,500 meters.
Along the narrow La Scala on the platform below, the old arched gun position now houses a small souvenir shop.
4. Bab el-Marsa
One of Essaouira’s iconic images is the strong gate leading to the Sqala du Port.
This Baroque building with frieze, pediments, scrolls and fluted columns was built in 1770 by the renegade architect Ahmed el Inglizi.
A British convert to Islam, as can be seen from his name el Inglizi, he also made his mark in Rabat, building fortifications and restoring medieval mosques.
An inscription on the front wall reads: “Glory to God. This gate was ordered by the most glorious king, Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah, and built by his servant Ahmed Laalaj.” Date , 1184 (1770).
5. Essaouira Beach
Starting east of the harbour, this gentle sandy beach stretches along Essaouira Bay to the mouth of the Oued Ksob River a few kilometers away.
Mogador Island at the entrance to the bay protects the beach from the open Atlantic waves, so the waves roll at thigh highs.
While Essaouira Beach is much safer than most beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, kids need to be close to the shore.
Essaouira Bay is swept by high winds, which makes kitesurfing the water sport of choice: Bluekite, Loving Surf, Ion Club, Ananas, Yalla Surf, Kite Paradise, Mogasurf and Yousurf are just a few of the many companies kitesurfing, bay tradition License tuition for surfing and paddle surfing.
In the quieter south, you can ride a horse or a camel, a special way to watch the sunset.
Recommended Tour: Essaouria: 2-Hour Quad Bike Tour to Beaches and Great Dunes
Smaller than the bazaars in Marrakech and Fes, Essaouira’s vaulted souks have the advantage of being easier to navigate and selling at lower prices than larger tourist cities.
Like all souks, it is divided into different sections, the main section being handcrafted souvenirs such as clothing, geometric tiles, coloured ceramic tableware, tagines, glassware, stencil lamps, ornate teapots, inlaid wood and silver jewelry.
Elsewhere, you’ll come across food and produce, from piles of khobz bread, olives, nuts, spices, garlic, peppers, and canned lemons, to a variety of animals, some alive and some not.
7. Fishing Port
If you’re an early riser, you can stroll to the harbour to watch the fishing boats come back with their catch at dawn.
Although small, it is one of the most productive fishing ports in the country, with the Canary Islands currents and strong trade winds resulting in huge catches.
The harbour is full of life until after lunch, and while it’s an intoxicating olfactory experience and a little rough around the edges, it’s also picturesque with its steadfast seagulls and blue wooden boats.
Historically, the pigment for this pigment came from shells harvested on Iles Purpuraires since Roman times.
Included in: Discover Essaouira 3-Hour Guided Tour and Tasting
Essaouira was revived in the 18th century by Mohammed ben Abdallah (1710-1790), who encouraged Jews to settle in the city and handle trade with Europe.
Once upon a time, Jews made up less than half of Essaouira’s population, and although the community has all but disappeared, the Merah (Jewish Quarter) is still located in the northeastern part of the medina.
There are two Jewish cemeteries, both of which can be visited if you dial the number on the gate.
The larger of the two is right on the ocean and often overflows its walls.
Although many of the inscriptions have disappeared, you can still make out the markings on the tomb, indicating whether its occupants were male (circle) or female (triangle), as well as several well-preserved synagogues from the 1800s.
In Mellah, visit the synagogue Slat Lkahal, which is being restored from its state of ruin, and Simon Attia, who preserves its scrolls, black-and-white photos of the community, and the rabbi’s quarters below.
9. Sidi Mohammed bin Abdullah Museum
In this museum in a 19th-century mansion on Rue Laâlouj, there is a fascinating collection of handicrafts dating back to the Phoenicians.
Originally a lord’s residence, the building was arranged around a courtyard and fountain, and became Essaouira’s town hall during the French protectorate in the 20th century.
The museum tells the story of the city from prehistoric times to the time of Mohammed bin Abdullah, with panels showcasing Essaouira’s natural heritage and ancient local industries, such as the extraction of argan oil.
Among the many striking pieces are coins minted in the city in the 18th century, traditional Berber, Jewish and Arabic jewelry, and rituals related to Gnaoua, Hmadcha, Melhoun, Andalusian and Berber cultures items and musical instruments.
There are also clothing, finely crafted cedar, carpet weaving and stucco, and an intact Roman amphora found in the bay of Essaouira.
10. Fish Market
Essaouira has two fish markets, one right in the fishing port and one in a large indoor hall on Mohammed Zerktouni Avenue.
Whether it’s sardines, shrimp, red snapper, conger eel, squid, or any other Atlantic-caught fish, you can take them to a nearby diner at both locations to be freshly grilled over charcoal for you.
The process can be a bit of a minefield, as restaurants often don’t have set price lists and can overcharge.
In this case, some local knowledge from a trusted guide can go a long way.
11. Moulay Hassan Square
At the tip of the peninsula that shelters the fishing port is a spacious plaza that heralds the entrance to the medina.
Moulay Hassan Square is fully open to the south and west, giving the square a clear view of the defense towers and sea wall to the sea.
The sunset is beautiful in the evening, and the residents of Essaouira come here to take a walk and mingle on the terraces on the north side of the square.
In June, the space became the biggest stage for the annual Gnaoua World Music Festival.
12. Three-hour guided tour with wine tasting
Essaouira has so much to experience, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing something.
One way to avoid this is to use a trusted guide, a three-hour tour is available on GetYourGuide.com.
This will take you to all the must-see attractions such as the city walls, fishing port and covered fish market, but will also cover some discoveries you might have missed.
You’ll visit Essaouira’s oldest bakery, make pastries based on time-honored recipes, watch a demonstration of Arabic calligraphy, and watch an artisan at work in his workshop.
The tour includes grilled fish at the market, a typical Moroccan dessert, and ends in an authentic way with a cup of mint tea.
13. One Hour Horse Riding
The adventure, posted on GetYourGuide.com, involves crossing the Oued Ksob River to the Ranch de Diabat, 3 km from the medina of Essaouira.
From there you’ll take an hour-long hike on deserted beaches.
If you’re new to horse riding, this can be a gentle trot with plenty of time to see Mogador Island and its ruined fortifications.
More experienced riders can pick up the pace for an exhilarating gallop in shallow water.
This tour will take you past the ruins of the palace that Mohammed ben Abdallah built for himself on the left bank of the Oued Ksob River.
14. Half-Day Quad Bike Tour
Also on the wild beaches of Diabat, a half-day quad bike tour takes you into the high sand dunes behind.
After a safety briefing and enough time to get to know your vehicle, you’ll head into the dunes for a three-hour ride up vertiginous slopes to towering perches where you can marvel at the Atlantic Ocean.
These quads are 125 cc, and the tour includes hotel pickup and drop-off, as well as refreshments and photos taken by the guide.
Book Online: Essaouira Dunes: Half-Day Tour by Quad Bike
15. Gnaoua World Music Festival
The Gnawas are from West and Central Africa and were brought to Morocco as slaves.
The word Gnawa actually comes from the Berber word for “slave”. Rooted in Gnawhi culture are ancient rituals of prayer and healing, and the music that accompanies these ceremonies has evolved into modern Gnawa music.
Their songs include rhythmic plucked low-key sintir, clapping and calling and responding vocals.
The eclectic Gnaoua World Music Festival takes place for four days in late June and draws thousands of people to the city.
Gnawa masters on the bill every year, as well as musicians who rocked crowds with jazz, blues, funk, pop, rock and other world music genres
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Essaouira, Morocco
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