After 5 days of celebration spent with the family in Marrakech, we decide to leave in the early morning for Essaouira. We rented a small Hyundai i10 in an agency located in Gueliz, price 20€ /day!
Bags thrown in the trunk, maps in the glove compartment, Canon and Gopro loaded… Let’s go for 4 days of discovery in a region that was totally unknown to us.
We made 1h15 of highway to the surroundings of Chichaoua, then 1h45 of road to Essaouira. The arrival is simply grandiose… At the bend of a bend on a hill we came across a sumptuous viewpoint that overlooks Essouira and the Atlantic…. As far as the eye can see!
As for accommodation, a friend advised us to go to a ryad, one of her friends, who rents on recommendation the ground floor of her house (25€/night), located about ten minutes walk from the ramparts of the medina and from “Bab Marrakech” one of her main entrances.
Once all the stuff was in the apartment, we went for a walk in the alleys of the medina. What a contrast with Marrakech… I do not explain to you the happiness of feeling the sweet and iodized air of the open sea that scents the whole city. The storks of the red city give way to seagulls and other gulls that form, by the thousand, a real ballet in the sky. The ochre-coloured walls are transformed into bright white ramparts.
We therefore entered through the “bab Marrakech” gate which overlooks one of the main streets of the medina. There are all types of shops: herbalists, argan oil cooperatives (more authentic outside Essaouira), Thuya marquetry workshops (woodwork in Essaouira), art galleries, booksellers and traditional merchants. As we sneaked along the ramparts we came across a small group of Gnawa musicians. Originally from sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana and Nigeria), the Gnawa sing religious poems in dialectal Arabic mixed with expressions of their native language. The purpose of the Gnawa ceremony is to drive out the Jinns, those evil spirits who can attack any Muslim. The jerky rhythm of the music leads the dancers to a state of trance. Every year, a music festival takes place in Essaouira in June and it seems that it is essential!
The shopkeepers and the locals are very welcoming and helpful, the atmosphere is totally less heavy than in the souks of Marrakech (tourist or not). While we were walking around the jewellery district, a woman came to talk to us for about ten minutes and gave us some good tips to make the most of the city. In terms of security, you just have to avoid hanging around in the Mellah district where drug addicts and thieves are squatting, otherwise the rest of the city is really quiet, there is really no risk.
Hunger is beginning to be felt, heading for the port and the mandatory auction! You are in Essaouira! If there is one place where you can taste seafood, it’s here, and without cracking your wallet (we’ll come back to that)! The port is impressive, authentic, there are no words to describe the scenery… A real postcard where BLUE is omnipresent… There are dozens of trawlers, and hundreds of boats all crammed into the docks. Sailors clean their boats, others carry their day’s loot to the auction, gulls feast on the remains of fish… I could go on, you must see it with your own eyes, you no longer think you are in Morocco…
A little further on we meet a Breton (and there are a lot of them in Essaouira!) who advises us some addresses to enjoy a sea urchinade, lobster, and other crustaceans to make more than one salivate. He advises us to have lunch in one of the many “huts” located about ten metres from the port, quality assured, he confides to us! Direction the “Finistère” hut to eat around a plateau filled with fish, seafood and shellfish… A delight! For the equivalent of 15€ we broke our bellies at 3, including appetizers and drinks!
This is followed by a digestive walk on the ramparts, which offer an exceptional view of the ocean. The sea is rough and the waves are crashing on the fortress, THE show!