You absolutely have to visit Essaouira, the white city of Morocco that embraced me.
Yes, Essaouira is really white, a shiny decadent white. The light and the air are white too and make it very difficult to focus on details. The wind is like a leitmotif and spreads brackish everywhere. Resisting to it would be too tiresome and useless… I let it carry me away and started strolling around this ancient surprising town.
What to visit and do in Essaouira?
Aimlessly meander within the walls enclosing this small, almost perfect town, made of little streets perpendicular to each other, all converging in the main street featuring a beautiful porch. Such planimetric perfection had been changed, from the ancient Mogador, given by the Portuguese invaders, to Essaouira, the beautifully designed.
The white walls of Essaouira are studded with endless, more or less bright turquoise spots. Color notes from the doors and windows in painted wood to the myriad of local artisan shops displaying beautiful Moorish lamps, objects in tadelak, shishas, embroidered fabrics, ornaments, and other objects Thuya, marquetry, carpets, and any souvenirs.
Stop and chat and bargain with the shopkeepers that inspire you. If you do it with a smile and appreciating their products, in less than no time, you’ll find yourself sitting on stools that appeared out from who knows where tasting the best mint tea in the world in small gorgeous burning glasses. To buy my beautiful pipe, it took almost an hour, many laughs, three glasses of tea, and a variety of tests, strictly with the caramel tobacco that I love.
Visit the Mellah, the old Jewish quarter of Essaouira, which, although no longer inhabited by Jews, retains an aura of great spirituality filtering through degradation that characterizes this whole area.
Putting aside our hygiene concept and stop by at the Essaouira fish market. Walking through the fish market is like being throwback into the eighteenth century. Do you know the Flemish paintings? Here is the same thing, but brighter and with thousands of flies and a strong acrid smell. Observing the fishmongers kneeling on the ground to fillet the fish on a flat stone made me reflect on the socio-cultural gap that separates us.
A walk to the harbor to admire old fishing boats, fishermen weaving nets, gulls who still live among rocks and pier (and not on rooftops or in landfills like where I live), shipwrights repairing hulls perhaps for the millionth time. The life of a traditional harbor charms me like an ancient novel…
Losing track of time discovering the Kasbah, the fortified citadel overlooking the harbor of Essaouira. Entering its mammoth inlaid door carries into another world, its halls, the casemates, cannons, and battlements made me dream up, and I couldn’t help but imagine the characters that passed by over the centuries. Characters that to me look like those of Salgari 😉
Getting sunburned at the beach… a long beach beaten by an impressive ocean breeze, which offers perfect waves for surfers who apparently crowd this cost all year long, but that ruined my relaxing plans for the afternoon… I so wanted to nap on a sunbed after the grilled fish feast I had in one of the cafes by the shore. A strong wind is useful and even holy while sailing, but not when it turns the sand into micro painful bullets!
How to plan the visit to Essaouira
Essaouira can be visited in a day, and that’s what I’ve done, negotiating with a taxi driver in Marrakech that drove me, waiting for me, and then drove me back. In 2010, I paid the equivalent of € 40.
For surf and other water sports lovers or for those who would fall in love with this amazing town, there are, of course, various riad on-site 😉
“Surgissant du silence d’une première torpeur
La mer en son éclat d’origine et rebelle
D’une houle alanguie cerne la citadelle
Et les yeux des mortels sont oubli de stupeur
P.S. In my pre-trip notes, I had also written down the name of the Museum Sidi Muhammad ben Abd Allah, dedicated to art and local tradition, but I only now realize that I didn’t visit it and can’t remember why! Lack of time, closing day, my usual delay on the roadmap. I don’t know, but if you visited it, please do let me know what I’ve missed… 😉