Morocco, Essaouira, Atlantic Windsurfing Resort

August 15, 2019 11:40 pm46 commentsViews: 74

Once known as Mogador, after the island that shelters its bays and sandy beaches from the Atlantic trade winds, Essaouira has had its share of the checkered history of Morocco. Carthaginians and Romans passed this way, and shellfish on its rocky shoreline provided purple dye for Imperial Roman togas. Most maritime European powers tried to take the port in subsequent centuries in an attempt to root out piracy and capture the valuable trans-Saharan caravan trade route through Marrakech.

Morocco, Essaouira, Atlantic Windsurfing Resort

The heart of Essaouira is the Medina or citadel and harbour, designed by a French slave of Mohammed III in 1760 and built by African slaves who brought their Gnaoua music with them. In fact Essaouira means ‘the beautifully designed’. So much so, that it caught the attention of artists and painters when Morocco eventually became a French protectorate. Sir Winston Churchill stayed here, meeting Orson Welles who directed and starred in his 1959 version of Othello, using the atmospheric walls and alleys (souks) to great effect.

The 1960s brought the hippie generation, here on the road from Marrakech such as Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa for the relaxed atmosphere of sun, sand, surf, souks and general exotica. Other artistic and creative personalities were attracted to Essaouira, such as Cat Stevens, and Ridley Scott who used the citadel for scenes in Gladiator. In 2001 Essaouira Medina became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Essaouira Gnaoua Music Festival is held annually in June. Gnaoua music, an exciting fusion of sub-Saharan and Arab styles, become established here since Senegalese, Ghanaian and Sudanese slaves and traders settled in the town.

Essaouira Main Attractions

The Citadel (Medina), with its old cannons, atmospheric walls and fine sea views.

Souks, which are some of the cleanest in North Africa without losing their traditional scents, colours and flavours.

Fine craftsmanship in beautifully grained thuya wood, native only to this part of Morocco, leather goods, rugs, carpets and other woollen goods, Moroccan caps, slippers and other decorative clothing.

Water sports, especially Atlantic windsurfing and sailing, using its constantly breezy climate.

The picturesque working fishing port, with its small blue-painted boats beside larger trawlers, which comes alive when the morning and evening catches are landed.

Seafood restaurants, from pricey French cuisine with a Medina view to family out-door grills beside the port or beach.

Mohammed III built a straight road from Essaouira to Marrakech to facilitate camel trains. It brought hippies and other travellers to Essaouira, and is now being up-graded to a highway under Morocco’s development-conscious young king, Mohammed VI. The new road should boost the economies of both ancient towns.


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