Wake up in a riad in the Medina and enjoy breakfast on the roof terrace overlooking the sea.
Take a stroll through the Medina, passing traditional handicraft stalls, modern art shops and colourful food souks.
Stop for a cup of coffee at a pavement café and watch the hustle and bustle of the main square.
Time for lunch and a tagine, Morocco’s national dish, at Chez Said, an authentic Berber restaurant outside the city.
Afterwards, visit the Val d’Argan vineyard, established by a Frenchman over 20 years ago. 24 kilometres inland of Essaouira, the wine tasting with chilled Gazelle de Mogador is simply unforgettable.
Back in Essaouira the afternoon ends with a leisurely stroll along the beach that draws a 2.5km long arc from the fishing port to the mouth of the Oued Ksob river. Strong trade winds also attract surfers and kitesurfers from all over the world.
The walk comes to a perfect end at the old port where thé à la menthe marocain, Moroccan mint tea, awaits.
The evening’s highlight: superb food, magic and live music combine at the Caravanne Cafe, probably the city’s coolest location, to form an incomparable treat for taste buds and eyes.
Even today, the artistic aura of yesteryear is palpable in the city’s streets. Ernest Hemingway came to Essaouira to write and music legends such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix were spellbound by the city’s spirit that made Essaouira a magnet for hippies in the aftermath of 1967. Essaouira also made a name for itself as a film set. Orson Welles’ making of ‘Othello’ here in the early 1950s is commemorated by a bas-relief of the famous man in one of the Medina’s squares. Ridley Scott also chose Essaouira to reconstruct medieval Jerusalem. In 2013, the city became a location for the Game of Thrones fantasy series. Essaouira has attracted artists and bon viveurs from all over the world. This has not changed as the relaxed, cosmopolitan and artistic atmosphere still fills the streets where visitors find small galleries exhibiting both Moroccan and international art. Many of Morocco’s leading creative artists own summer houses in the old town. They too contribute to the town’s distinctly artistic atmosphere. For many years, the streets and alleys of Essaouira’s Medina host music festivals. These include the Gnaoua World Music Festival, the Printemps Musical Des Alizés and the Festival des Andalousies Atlantique.
The annual Gnaoua Festival that takes place each May or June has become an institution, attracting the world’s best ethnomusic bands and musicians. This melting pot of musical fusion lasts four days and attracts around half a million visitors each year. The music is performed in some of the most beautiful parts of the town and can often be heard free of charge. 2018 festival dates: 21 to 24 June.
Moroccan food is more than just varied – Arab, Mediterranean and African influences provide tasty cuisine diversity. Wherever you go in the souks and markets, you’ll find fresh fruit and vegetables as well as freshly caught fish. Herbs and spices are also used extensively, with saffron, cumin, coriander, cloves and cinnamon providing indispensable ingredients. The best known Moroccan spice is ras el hanout – a mix of around 35 different spices used in the preparation of couscous and tagines, Morocco’s national dishes.
Couscous is one of Morocco’s national dishes and usually eaten on Fridays after prayers. Couscous is made of small steamed balls of crushed durum wheat, semolina, barley or millet and is traditionally served with a meat stew spooned on top – usually poultry, beef or lamb – as well as vegetables including tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, chickpeas and pumpkin.
A tagine is a Maghrebi dish named after the earthenware pot in which the food is cooked. The tagine pot consists of a circular base and a cone-shaped cover. Poultry, lamb, goat or camel meat and fresh vegetables are slowly braised at low heat inside the pot. There are countless varieties, savoury and sweet, of this North African stew, which is typically cooked on a charcoal fire. When it’s ready, the whole tagine comes to the table and everyone helps themselves.
Thé à la menthe marocain (Moroccan mint tea)
Morocco’s national drink par excellence. In Morocco, a day without mint tea would seem unimaginable. This refreshing drink is served several times a day: for breakfast, after a meal or at the end of the day. Mint tea is more than a beverage; it is an integral part of the Moroccan way of life and symbol of hospitality. Green tea with fresh mint is also served during business transactions and when haggling at the bazaar. The tea is usually prepared by the head of the family.
Morocco has always been a land of wellbeing, which explains why the official bathhouse or hammam is so important. Combined with pure moments of pampering straight out of 1001 Nights, the Moroccan hammam is an exquisite bathing ritual that is celebrated in its most original form. Adopted from the Romans, the steam bath is still an integral part of Islamic culture. Its significance, however, goes beyond being a mere cleansing ritual practised regularly by many Moroccans. The hammam also has an important social function as it is a place for gossiping and sharing news as well as bathing and washing. In the strictly gender separated hammam the traditional art of natural care is transferred from generation to generation. Quiet rooms, soothing steam and splashes of hot water regenerate the skin and relax body and mind. A thorough scrub on the hot marble slab, and then the body is massaged with soap. Treatments in the steam room are a pure pleasure that quicken the senses.
Nature is bountiful with her precious treasures in the area around Essaouira and the Sous plain. Golden and powerfully fragrant, argan oil is obtained from the fruit of the argan tree and is used in premium cosmetic products and luxurious beauty rituals.
SOUK HAD DRAA
Experience the real Morocco! 30km from Essaouira, this is the largest rural market in southern Morocco and takes place every Sunday. In addition to fruit, vegetables, grain, and everything you need, from everyday objects and kitchen utensils to second-hand goods and more, farmers bring their animals for sale. But you do need to be an early bird to catch the negotiations surrounding the sale of camels, sheep, donkeys and cows! Naturally, the market offers plenty of opportunities for enjoying great food and Moroccan mint tea. The hustle, bustle and wide range of available goods and services are impossible to put into words – you simply have to experience it for yourself!
It is always best to visit a souk in the company of a private guide.
Relaxing and enjoying good food
Nature and beach
Activities including golf, surfing, kitesurfing, mountain biking and hiking
Sturdy footwear, suitable for exploring the city’s sometimes bumpy alleys and streets as well as the surrounding area
Sunscreen – despite the wind that ensures the temperatures stay pleasant, you will need to protect yourself from the sun’s powerful rays throughout the year
A willingness to haggle, as this is simply part of the shopping experience in the souks and galleries
A large suitcase to transport all the treasures you’ve acquired