ESSAOUIRA – WHY GO?
When you're ready to escape the mayhem of Marrakech, there's no better place to unwind than Essaouira, Morocco's coastal chill-out capital. Hugging the Atlantic Ocean around a wide, sweeping bay Essaouira is an appealing mix of old and new Morocco. With its laidback vibe, bargain-packed bazaar and cool boutique hotels, Essaouira is fast coming up the ranks as THE place to kick back.
MUST SEE, MUST DO
Strong winds make the beaches ideal for watersports – especially activities such as windsurfing and kitesurfing – and nearby sand dunes are perfect for quad biking through or taking a camel ride across them. If the thought of being bumped around gives you the hump, hire a horse to ride along the beachfront instead.
The old walled city is now peppered with stylish riads, small townhouse boutique hotels, perfect for a romantic getaway. Trawl the narrow streets of the bazaar for bargains. It's hassle-free shopping and everything is cheaper here than in Marrakech. Don't miss a stroll into the old harbour late afternoon when the fishing boats arrive back from sea. Then find a table at one of the little shack-style eateries at the port entrance for the freshest ever fish supper – delicious.
At one end of Essaouira's beach the Berber village of Diabat’s ruined fort and windswept beach make a pleasant walk from Essaouria. Check out the Hendrix café – the beachside ruins were said to be Jimi Hendrix’s inspiration for his song Castles in the Sand.
Famous for its woodwork and lacquerware, the area has suffered from deforestation because of the local industry, but craftsman still make beautifully intricate boxes and other souvenirs that can be bought at a good price in the souk.
MAKE A DATE
See the musicians with their tasselled hats, drums and lutes at the big Essaouira Gnawa and World Music Festival.
Drink mint tea on the terrace of the Taros bar overlooking the harbour.