The compact seaside town of Essaouira, with its relaxed atmosphere and cool sea breeze, seems world away from the dust and crowds of Marrakech. Despite its diminutive size, however, the town has much to offer, including stunning beaches, a beautifully preserved medina, and impressive 18th century ramparts and fortifications.
Tyrian Purple Dye:
The Tyrian purple dye, which is made from sea snails, was first harvested in Tire (giving the dye its name) in southern Lebanon during the time of the Phoenicians (1500-300 B.c.). It reached its height of use during the glory years of the Roman empire, when it was used to color the clothes of emperors and wealthy aristocrats. Essaouira became a second source of the dye when these small sea snails were also found living on the rocks around the lle de Mogador. The dye was produced by grinding up the snail shells, a time – consuming process that required many shells to produce even a small amount of dye, hence its high price.
EXPERIENCE: Windsurfing off Essaouira
Essaouira is blessed with some of the fin est beaches in Morocco, but strong winds off the Atlantic Ocean can make sunbathing a tad uncomfortable. Conditions for windsurfing, however, are ideal. The main windsurfing areas are the bay at Essaouira itself and Sidi Kaouki to the south, which are suitable for all levels and abilities, with generally favorable winds from the northwest – although periodic strong gusts can make conditions more difficult. Cap Sim, also to the south, offers similar conditions, but with a prevailing southerly wind and occasionally powerful sea swells. The conditions at Moulay Bouzerktoun beach are more challenging and suitable only for intermediate and advanced windsurfers, as wind speeds can reach 40-48 km per hour. Several companies offer surfing packages and equipment rental for experienced surfers and tuition for beginners, as well as changing and shower facilities. Good choices include Ocean Vagabond (boulevard Mohamed V, Essaouira, tel 0524/78 39 34, www.oceanvagabond.com) and Essaouira Kitesurf (tel 0672/06 37 25, www.essaouirakitesurf.com), but the most popular is Explora ( 2 place Chrib Atay, Rue Laalouj, Essaouira, tel 0611/47 51 88, www.exploramorocco.com), which is run by a group of friendly and knowledgeable locals who have been surfing in Essaouira for decades. Some places offer kite surfing and water surfing courses, too. It’s worth making sure that your travel insurance covers water sports before you surf.
- For a delicious and inexpensive lunch, we highly suggest to go to the port in Essaouira. At the fish stands, choose your own seafood from that morning’s catch, and they grill it right on the spot.
- Bring a soccer ball to the beach and in five minutes you’ll have a full-on pickup game. It’s a great way to meet the locals and enjoy the gorgeous ocean views.
A Walk in Essaouira & Around
With a fascinating medina full of narrow , winding streets, some first-rate architecture, and along stretches of sweeping sand fronting the Atlantic, Essaouira offers a microcosm of Morocco’s charms.
Essaouira’s bay is dotted with little islands poking their heads out of the water. The ile de Mogador, which gave Essaouira its former name, provides shelter to the city’s busy harbor from the strong winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean. It was this shelter that probably led to the early colonization of the area.
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