Essaouira is another gem of Morocco. Despite its small size it has a lot to offer – wonderful beaches, well-preserved old town, and impressive 18-century fortifications. Only 140 miles away from busy Marrakech streets, this charming place offers a relaxed atmosphere and a cool Atlantic breeze. It consists of heavily fortified 300 years old medina (old town) surrounded by very modern new city. Essaouira is known for its fish dock and colorful boats, but that’s not all what there is to this city.
The History of Essaouira
Long ago Essaouira was a trade center where foreign traders were coming to trade gold and other valuables for purple dye. Purple dye was considered to be the most prestigious commodity in the Roman world.
Purple dye was first produced by Phoenicians in Tyre (southern Lebanon) from shells of sea snails. This was a time-consuming process, which required a big number of shells for even small amount of dye. The purple dye was quite costly. It was mainly used to dye clothes of wealthy aristocrats and royals. Later the same type of sea snail was discovered in the rocks of Essaouira’s Mogador island (Ile de Mogador) – a small island less than a mile away from the beach of Essaouira. At that time purple dye meant wealth, and its discovery significantly affected Essaouira’s status.
However Essaouira eventually caught attention of European seafaring nations. To protect Essaouira sultan Muhammad III ordered to fortify the city with walls and made it a base for Morocco’s navy.
What to Do in Essaouira
Essaouira is famed for its beautiful beaches – the long white stretches of sand attract visitors throughout the year and are considered to be best beaches of Morocco. Other than spending time on the beach and enjoying seafood at the port of Essaouira, you may want to see famous Othello Gardens. The Othello Gardens were named so after Orson Welles, a filmmaker who shot his film Othello here in 1940s.
This image is the courtesy of Flickr.com
Scalla de la Ville is another must-see of Essaouira. It is a huge 18th century gun battery. From there you can get an excellent view of small islands around Essaouira.
Museum of Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdullah is a good place to see the examples of regional crafts and Moorish instruments and weapons.
Essaouira’s woodcarvers’ souk (or market) is a good place to shop for souvenirs, boxes, and furniture made of thuya wood.
Essaouira is also a great place for windsurfing (see Water Sports in Essaouira).