Essaouira: Moroccos Coastal Gem
If you are looking for a relaxing getaway in Morocco, you might want to consider Essaouira, a charming coastal town that offers a variety of attractions and activities. Essaouira is located on the Atlantic coast, about 180 kilometers west of Marrakech, and has a population of about 80,000 inhabitants. Essaouira has a rich history, a vibrant culture, and a stunning natural scenery that will captivate you. Here are some of the reasons why you should visit Essaouira and what you can do there.
The Coastal Attractions
Essaouira is blessed with a long sandy beach that stretches for several kilometers along the coast. The beach is ideal for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing, and other water sports. You can rent equipment and take lessons from the local surf schools, or just enjoy the waves and the breeze. The beach is also a great place to watch the sunset and admire the views of the Mogador islands, which are a protected natural reserve.
If you prefer a more secluded spot, you can head to the Sidi Kaouki beach, which is about 20 kilometers south of Essaouira. This beach is quieter and less crowded, and has a more rustic feel. You can also visit the nearby village of Sidi Kaouki, which has a few cafes and restaurants where you can sample some local delicacies.
Another coastal attraction that you should not miss is the Essaouira port, which is one of the oldest and most authentic ports in Morocco. The port is still active and bustling with fishermen, boats, and vendors. You can walk along the quay and watch the fishermen unload their catch, or buy some fresh seafood from the stalls. You can also see the Skala du Port, a fortified bastion that was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century to defend the port. The Skala du Port has several cannons and offers a panoramic view of the sea and the medina.
Speaking of seafood, Essaouira is famous for its delicious and diverse seafood dishes. You can find all kinds of fish, shellfish, crustaceans, and mollusks in Essaouira, such as sardines, mackerel, sea bass, sole, squid, octopus, shrimp, crab, lobster, oysters, and more. You can enjoy them grilled, fried, baked, or cooked in tagines or couscous. You can also try some of the local specialties, such as harira (a hearty soup), pastilla (a savory pastry), or tanjia (a slow-cooked meat stew).
One of the best places to eat seafood in Essaouira is at the port itself, where you can find many stalls and restaurants that serve fresh seafood at reasonable prices. You can choose your own seafood from the display and have it cooked on the spot. You can also go to the Moulay Hassan square, which is next to the port and has many cafes and restaurants with terraces overlooking the sea.
The Historic Medina
The medina of Essaouira is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved medinas in Morocco. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 for its cultural and architectural value. The medina was founded by Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah in 1760 and designed by several renowned architects, including Théodore Cornut and Ahmed al-Inglizi. The medina has a unique layout that combines Moroccan and European influences, with wide streets, arcades, squares, fountains, mosques, synagogues, churches, and fortifications.
The medina is also home to many artisans who produce handicrafts such as wood carving, silver jewelry, leather goods, pottery, carpets, textiles, and paintings. You can visit their workshops and see them at work or buy some souvenirs from their shops. You can also explore the souks (markets) of the medina, where you can find all kinds of goods and products.
One of the highlights of the medina is the Skala de la Ville (or Skala de la Kasbah), which is another fortified bastion that overlooks the sea. The Skala de la Ville was built in 1765 by Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah as part of his defensive system. The Skala de la Ville has a long wall with several towers and embrasures that offer a spectacular view of the coast and the islands. The Skala de la Ville also houses a museum that displays various historical artifacts and weapons.
Essaouira is a coastal gem that offers something for everyone. Whether you are looking for relaxation, adventure, culture, or gastronomy, you will find it in Essaouira. Essaouira is a place where you can enjoy the beauty of nature, the charm of history, and the warmth of hospitality. Essaouira is a place that you will fall in love with and want to return to.
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