The Perfect Weekend Break in Essaouira, Morocco
Exploring Africa’s Windy City
Sat on a rocky part of Morocco’s Northern Atlantic Coast, the beautiful port of Essaouira is overflowing with character and amazing things to explore. The ‘Windy City of Africa’, formerly known as Mogador, is home to miles of golden beaches, a fortified seaport, hundreds of blue fishing boats and bustling narrow lanes galore. It’s no surprise that the town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I had visited three years ago and absolutely loved the place, so we decided it would be a wonderful place to see in the New Year. As it turned out, we missed New Year entirely, as our devices did not automatically set themselves to Moroccan time after leaving the UK (…but that’s another story).
Exploring The Medina
Essaouira’s medina (or old city) is a hive of activity. Full of stray animals - especially cats - beautiful handicrafts and all manner of smells both good and bad, these tiny streets have a charm which is all their own. The 18th century ramparts which originally protected the sea from pirates, and more recently featured in Game of Thrones, are now a must-see.
Follow the ancient walls around the city, and you’ll come to the harbour, where you can have your pick of cafes to drink mint tea or eat a great choice of local dishes - the town now even has a selection of vegan restaurants (our favourite is Dar Jeeling).
In the Port
Down by the harbour, you cannot help but be struck by the huge number of bright blue fishing boats - or floukas - teeming with local fishermen and their fresh catches. This place is a hive of activity, especially in the early morning when the hauls first arrive.
Essaouira, like anywhere else, is not immune to the scourge of change. The smaller fishing boats are increasingly being replaced by much bigger vessels, and those who have been fishing independently for generations must adapt, or risk losing their livelihood entirely.
Despite Morocco’s proximity to the equator, January evenings can get really very cold indeed - not too much higher then 0 degrees Celcius when we were there! If you are there at this time of year, be prepared for the temperature to drop quickly, and the winds to pick up. Be sure to wrap up warm before finding a good spot to watch the sunset - you can’t go wrong on the beach or on one of the Medina’s many rooftops (these shots were taken from the roof of our Air BnB).