Essaouira is up and coming, it is becoming the creative and bohemian hub of Morocco. If you liken Marrakesh to London, then Essaouira is like Bristol or Liverpool. Over the years many ‘foreigners’ have been buying & renovating beautiful town houses here which is great for the economy but not so great for locals since outsiders are getting rid of that crumbling charm of the exterior buildings in order to modernize and suit their own needs. Moroccans strongly believe in community & in being humble. The whole reason as to why the exterior buildings look as though they are about to collapse is to show all men & women are equal, nobody knows who is wealthy or who is struggling until you step inside their home. Moroccans; unlike us in the West, do not like to gloat about who has the most expensive car and who can afford a deluxe designer kitchen because doing that encourages segregation and a weak sense community. Another practice that I love about Moroccans is that local bakeries and store owners always put the poor first, giving them the bigger and fresher pieces of bread because they know full well that whereas the wealthier person can afford bread every day, the individual who is struggling may have to make their loaf of bread last a week. There is a real sense of community here in Morocco in that they do try to look after those who are less fortunate. In the West our community enjoys pointing the finger and offering little or no support, needless to say I prefer the Moroccan community to the West.
Essaouira is a beautiful bohemian city full of artists and new age hippies living a laid back way of life. Close to the sea and being windy almost all year round it is a hot spot for surfers and water sport addicts around the globe.
A number of arts, dance and music festivals are held here and there are numerous shops and quaint cafes full of arty flare. Essaouira is also rich in colour with its striking sky blue and white wash tones, it is probably one of the most photographed cities in Morocco. If you pick up a leaflet advertising a Moroccan holiday you can be sure to see pictures of the bright blue boats from Essaouira’s harbor or of it’s golden walls covered in richly toned carpets and boldly printed tapestries. If you are based in Marrakesh (which most travelers usually are when visiting Morocco) You can arrange a day trip from Marrakesh to visit Essaouira and I strongly recommend you do simply to experience that artsy, bohemian way of life and maybe catch a few waves in the surf or enjoy a stroll on the beach. This is a year-round sporty & arty lifestyle catering for windsurfers, golfers, horse riding enthusiasts, Yoga lovers and art buffs. The combination of lingering French sophistication from the days of the protectorate, the flavours of the hot African south, the geometric Arab designs coupled with the romance of the nomadic Berber tribes make it an irresistible visit.
Our group spent two days here to just relax and potter about the market place. It was such a welcome rest for me that I ended up missing a trip to a Hamam (which is a local bath house that offer body massage) because I literally fell into a deep sleep in our hotel room and didn’t wake up until later in the evening. I am never usually a deep sleeper, I can be easily woken, I jump out of bed in the mornings and I cat nap. Jon couldn’t wake me this time, I was in such a sleepy haze I do vaguely remember Jon trying to coax me awake to enjoy a massage at the Hamam which is something that would usually tempt me but my body was exhausted. Later one of the women in our group told me it was a good thing I missed going to the Hamam, this particular one was over crowded, noisy and the massage was pretty rough. Being someone of a gentle disposition and becomes a panicky shrinking violet in over crowded places I am glad I didn’t go in the end as I am pretty sure I’d have ended up having a panic attack. Not all Hamans are like that though and I have experienced something similar in Turkey so I do highly recommend you experience it too as it is part of the Moroccan culture and it would be a lovely treat for yourself after a long trek or hours surfing the waves.
Out of all the accommodations we stayed in during our tour, the hotel we stayed at in Essaouira was by far my favourite, with the villa in Midelt coming a close second. I adored our room and the interior design of the hallways. The owners of this place really devoted a lot of time and love into collecting exquisite art work, hand carved wooden statues, bold rugs & furnishings that really made the artistic side to me feel at home. A book nook had also been created with a small library and seat where you can curl up, drink mint tea and read the classics like Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare whilst pondering the meaning of life.
Our group was encouraged to find a local cafe that makes hot chocolate that is literally just melted chocolate and even a small cup is hard to stomach but well worth the chance to have a taste. I am a chocolate lover and so I wasn’t going to pass on this opportunity! The hot chocolate was just as described, it is thick melted chocolate but so yummy and soothing however it did become too sickly for me to finish!
Although Essaouira is a beautiful and relaxing coastal city plus our accommodation was so pretty, it wasn’t my favourite place we visited. What made it one of my least favourite places was it’s weather. The weather is great if you are surfer but not so great when you don’t particularly enjoy eating your hair and being caked in sand whilst trying to enjoy walking around the markets. Windy is an understatement in Essaouira, this place is blustery nearly all year round and it doesn’t calm down at night and unless you have a quick wash in the evening you will wake up with sand and grit in your bed. I personally can not stand the wind, I like rain, I can tolerate heavy rain, I can tolerate freezing but calm weather but windy days and gale force winds give me a headache and make me miserable because it really does make me want to shout “Stop it!” at this invisible, annoying entity. However I am glad I did get to visit this place as it was a completely different environment to where we were the previous day, staying with a family in the high atlas mountains. Morocco really is like a bag of dolly mixture sweets, you might be staying in a desert one day and the next in a colourful city then onwards to the heavenly magnificence of the mountains.
OK guys, so this is it, my last ever Moroccan blog post is coming up next week. Our last destination in the tour was two days in Marrakesh. Stay tuned for the grand finale!
Missed previous Moroccan posts from our 16 day tour? Click on the links below!
Day one & two in Casablanca
Day three/Afternoon in Rabat
Day Four/Morning in Meknes
Day Four/Afternoon in Volubilis
Day Five: Fes
Day Six: Midelt
Day Seven in Sahara Desert
Days Eight & Nine in Todra Gorge
Day Ten in Ait Benhaddou
Day Eleven in Aroumd/Ifrane
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