A Piece of Heaven on the Coast of Morocco

Exploring the wonders of Essaouira – a destination that should be on your radar

Known until the 1960s as Mogador, Essaouira is a port city in the western Moroccan region of Marrakech-Safi, situated on the Atlantic coast. Unlike Marrakech, Essaouira is far more relaxed and it provides a very different experience unlike any other place in Morocco. It may lack the recognition and fame of more famous Moroccan cities, but that just might be its biggest draw.

The indisputable charm of a coastal city

Essaouira is considered to be one of the newer Medinas in Morocco. Its construction began in the mid-18th century. Because of this, the town’s design is influenced by European cities. Throughout its history, the city was a main seaport between North Africa and Europe, developing it into a multi-cultural hub. Essaouira became a home to the Amazigh (Berber), African, Arab and European groups, but to the Jewish communities as well for a period of time. Due to this, in 2001, Essaouira became a UNESCO world heritage site.

The moment you approach the city you’ll be quick to notice one of its main attractions. In front of the entrance gates to the city you’ll encounter a big fishing port, filled to the brim with bright blue boats and fisherman, chatting with each other, preparing their fishing equipment and showing off their catches to their fellow fisherman friends.

There’s a reason behind the blue color appearing not only on the boats of the fisherman, but throughout the entire city of Essaouira as well. The blue comes as a tribute to the nearby Mogador Island where the color has been harvested from the rare Murex sea snail shell that can be found there. In the past, after the fisherman painted their boats blue, the leftover paint was mostly used by its citizens to paint window-frames and doors of their houses, which explains why this color is one of the city’s main trademarks.

Essaouira, a symbol of tolerance

Essaouira has a long-standing history that truly offers an example of a multicultural scene and you can witness this the moment you find yourself in front of the city’s main gates. Bab El Marsa, the most monumental gate of Essaouira, serves as a symbol of the city’s acceptance to people coming from all parts of the world. Bab el Marsa is also known as the gate of tolerance because it bears the Islamic crescent moon, the Jewish Star of David and the shell of St James, the symbol that identified the local Christians, welcoming all that take a step into this unique and beautiful city.

In 2001, Essaouira became a UNESCO world heritage site

The peaceful coexistence of different religions is a historical example for the present on how to achieve more united and tolerant societes. Through the city there are many hidden details in its architecture that reveal the legacy of harmony and respect.  The Jewish traces of Essaouira are an important heritage that the local state authorities themselves strive to maintain and promote as well.

Medina – The old town

As soon as you enter the gates you’ll be greeted by a surreal view of the town, while the waves crash against the magnificent stone walls of the gates that look like a perfect setting for a medieval movie or a fantasy TV show. It’s no coincidence that one of the most popular TV shows, known as Game of Thrones, was actually filmed exactly here in Essaouira, amongst many other works that found their inspiration in this mysterious town.

After strolling alongside the high battlements, you’ll pass through the stone arches and ascend to a long ramp to reach the city’s most scenic spot: a promenade lined with cannons pointing out to the sea.  The wondrous and wide walkway with its majestic watchtower offer а stunning view of the rocky coast and the Purple Isles, where, as the name suggests, ancient Phoenicians and Romans crushed murex shells to make violet dyes which were much-prized at the time.

Throughout the city there are many hidden details in its architecture that reveal the legacy of harmony and respect

The city is brimming with interesting architecture, narrow streets, beautiful and detailed doors, colorful rugs, clothes and souvenirs sold by the locals. When the sun shines on its buildings they glow with a stunning golden color, in contrast to all the blue you may find, making the stroll through Essaouira’s old town a sight to behold.

On your walk through the narrow streets paved in stone, you may also see cats appearing in every corner. Essaouira takes very good care of their furry citizens, as they are considered one of the city’s main symbols. They even have their own holiday. That’s why you can see every street seller being accompanied by a cat or two, completely assimilated into Essaouira’s street life.

Where to eat?

If you find yourself to be hungry, but you also wish to experience a unique atmosphere that only Essaouira can offer, look no further than the Dar Baba restaurant. This restaurant may just be one of the most impressive places to eat at while visiting Morocco. Their retro-kitsch aesthetic combined with beautiful chandeliers and lights that make all the colorful details in the restaurant “pop” is nothing short of a marvelous and romantic experience. Their food is exquisite and it offers a wide array of seafood, Mediterranean fusion foods, tapas, deserts, cocktails, wines and much more. Besides the magnificent streets of Essaouira, the Dar Baba restaurant will without a doubt remain as one of the most memorable places in the city.

Essaouira may be lesser-known compared to Morocco’s more popular cities, but that may be the reason why visiting it provides you with a more peaceful and calming experience. The diverse mix of cultures, religions and friendly locals, along with its unique architecture combined with the beautiful seaside, make this town a compelling and crucial place to experience and explore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.