Escaping to Essaouira has always been in our minds as a place we had wished to see whilst visiting Morocco, having seen friends visit this beautiful coastal city. During our new year travels to Marrakech this year we decided it was time to take a trip! As many of you know I am a regular to the Red City and as such I have been able to make some true and lasting friendships, as well as reliable contacts. Step forward Youssef, who runs Morocco Scorpion Tours in Marrakech. We first met him en route to Riad Tizwa from the airport a few years ago. We immediately stuck up a friendship and keep in regular contact with him though trusty what’s app. Our first excursion with him was to the Ourika Valley, about an hour and thirty minutes out of Marrakech. On our way he kindly took us to a local Berber market, as it was a Friday and that is market day in Morocco. I always remember he bought us some sage tea and lambs liver skewers, the local delicacy. It was a day of firsts!!
Whilst staying at Riad Tizwa with my parents, their first time staying in a Riad, we organised a day trip with Youssef to Essaouira. After Hassan kindly prepared us an early breakfast, Youssef arrived punctually to take us to the coastal jewel, in his new Kia SUV. The journey took us almost three hours and as it was early a little snooze was in order. As we approached Essaouira I had always wanted to see the goats in the Argan trees, so Youssef stopped roadside in an area where they can be seen. First impressions and being honest, it wasn’t what I had expected and I felt a little sad. I soon learnt that the goats do in fact naturally climb the Argan trees in the season, June to July time, but at other times are placed up into the trees by the goat farmers themselves. I do accept that some would say this is cruel, however being here and observing the farmers do care and they well fed and looked after. Unfortunately the farmers now know it is a popular attraction, for all the Instagram posts and have seized on the opportunity to make money. Once the tourists leave after a morning rush, the goats are taken out of the trees and are free again to roam. I feel it is important that people know this and can make their own informed decision.
As we arrived in Essaouira, Youssef dropped us off by the port entrance. So we could walk through and into the city ourselves. It was a beautiful day and it felt great to be able to take a stroll in the winter sunshine. This city used to be called Mogador and it’s modern name Essaouira means the ‘little rampart’, due to the city still being partly enclosed by fortress walls. The port was once known as “the port of Timbuktu”, because most African products for export ended up here. Sultan Ben Abdellah founded the port area in the 1700’s and encouraged free trade. Which led to the settlement of rich merchants, including a Jewish community. Whilst we walked around the port we observed the seafarers and the fisherman returning with their morning’s catch. Iconic for it’s blue fishing boats, it really is very picturesque! It is brought to life by the seagulls and the many local alley cats looking for a fishy treat.
We decided before we explored the medina we would have a drink on the Taros rooftop, it had been recommended for it’s panoramic views over the sea walls. Enjoying the Moroccan sun and thinking how wonderful it was to have escaped the British winter. Essaouira is usually know for it’s winds, however we had been lucky and it was quite still. I can imagine these winds would be a blessing in the summer heat. The name given to them is “Alizee trade winds”, which make the area popular with surfers and kite surfers alike.
The medina is great to explore and it gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2001. From the food stalls, to the fresh spices and the leather goods on offer. There is much to enjoy! We spent quite awhile taking it all in and loving the chilled vibes. In contrast to the hustle and bustle of Jemaa El Fna and the souks in Marrakech, Essaouira runs at much slower and relaxed pace. Making it a softer and less intimidating introduction into Morocco some would say. Our bellies began to growl and the owner of our Riad Richard had kindly recommended a place for lunch. All we had to do was find it, easier said than done without google maps… We eventually found Vague Bleue, possibly the smallest restaurant I have ever eaten in. Located in a small side alley and ran by a lovely lady. She told us it was full and to return in an hour, which we did. As we sat down in this, what can only be described as a hole in the wall, we went the flow and ordered some fresh fish from the chalk board. She gave us some delicious fresh bread and Moroccan salads to start, along with fresh juice. When we talk about travel and experiences, this was certainly one to remember.
As we ate our lunch, we watched the world go by and witnessed some Moroccan children appear outside at the local water hole, impressed wasn’t the word as the senior child filled his large water drum aided by his sister’s pushchair and a length of hose pipe. Running errands for their mum, still appearing to have fun and splashing each other with water, my heart leapt with love. Not a PlayStation or mobile phone in sight, the much forgotten pleasures of childhood. I highly commend the restaurant of it’s simplicity and gorgeous fresh food. If you are visiting Essaouira make sure to stop by.
As the afternoon drew to a close, we enjoyed taking tea in the medina square and bought a colourful bread basket for home and my mum was craving nuts, so we went to a small local vendor and stocked up with almonds and other coated peanuts. We couldn’t come to the coast and not take a stroll along rage beach front, which was lovely and seemed to go on for miles. We sat for awhile soaking up some more vitamin D, before buying some fresh orange juice on our way back to meet Youssef.
The main road running parallel to the beach is lined with large hotels, apartments and villa rentals and you can fly direct to Essaouira on the low cost airlines, including Easyjet. We throughly enjoyed our time here and hope to return in the future for a stay. As we left the coastal city, the sun was on it’s way down which made for another stunning sunset, we had even more love for Morocco.
To contact Youssef for any airport transfers, future trips or excursions, please visit Morocco Scorpion Tours