Essaouria (الصويرة) is a coastal city in Morocco.
- A whole grand taxi from Marrakech runs about 600dh - 800dh, or 90dh per place if you take taxi Blue.
- Supratours runs buses from the Marrakech train station into the Essaouira Supratours station, just down the street from the beach.
- Catch a CTM bus from Marrakech's bus station (or the CTM Offices in the Gueliz, on Zerktouni street) for 65dh (plus 5dh per stowed luggage). The trip takes 3.5 hours. There is no toilet on the bus, but it does make one local stop mid-journey, where there are toilets. Book your tickets from the CTM Offices the day before as they do sell out fast.
The walled centre of town, the Medina, does not allow motor vehicles to enter other than the ubiquitous moped,
but there are occasional horse drawn vehicles to dodge. Smile and get out of the way.
- The beach dominates the Essaouirans' leisure time. Although the strong wind and currents makes relaxed tanning and swimming a little difficult at times, it is perfect for kitesurfing and windsurfing. With good winds for most days of the year, Essaouira is a watersports paradise. The best spots are reported to be Essaouira Bay, Sidi Kaouki, Cape Sim and Mouley Bouzertoune. Equipment can be hired from various hire centres on the beach front.
- The nearby town of Diabat is at the other end of Essaouira's beach, and is allegedly where Jimi Hendrix once spent some time. Even if the stories aren't true, this long, windswept beach with its ruined fort is a fantastic walk. Diabat is an empty, concrete Berber village that is practically devoid of attractions except the Hendrix ruin and a Hendrix Cafe. It's best visted in the early morning via taxi and then return to Essouiara via a short and very romantic walk on the beach past the castle in the sand of Hendrix fame.
- Zouina-cheval, Village of Diabat (Diabat is at 3 km of the medina, accessible by taxi), . from 8 am to 8 pm. Zouina-cheval organizes horse treks and horse rides in the surrounding of Essaouira. The rides are for everybody (beginners, good riders, children) but the treks are recommended to good riders as you spend long hours riding. If you want city breaks and experience the countryside as well as beaches, dunes and traditional village, those rides are for you. The monitor, Najib, is very qualified and very nice. Prices are correct and you don't have to negotiate. from 170dh for 1h to 7150dh for a week.
- Ecotourism…Walking tours, 8 bis rue houmman el fatouaki Médina Essaouira, ☎ 06 18 13 24 80, . half day. Discover the real Essaouira-Natural Essaouira…on foot Guided Eco friendly tours of the amazing countryside around Essaouira. You can discover the Argan Woods, the Thuya Forests, and the unimagined world of the Dunes… take mint tea in a berber village, and learn the secrets of a unique and irreplaceable ecosystem at your own pace. Price per person per day: half day is 200 DH and full day is 400 DH (including a traditional meal with moroccan family) Transport is included from town to the departure point of each walk. 200 dh.
Essaouira's craftsmen are renowned for their woodwork and lacquerware. Intricately inlaid boxes, chessboards and curios can be found for good prices in the city's hundreds of shops; however, beware that extensive deforestation is taking place in the area due to these woods not being replanted. Artwork of all kinds can be had here.
Although Essaouira is on the sea, fish are quite expensive. Fishermen sell their catch through market hall and you can get it cooked in small stands nearby. Prices are clearly marked per weight on the large pricing board at the end of the fish market stalls, but this seems to make little difference to the chances of being hustled. Carefully evaluate how much you are being charged. A cheaper option is to buy Harira (a spicy soup) for 2-5DH or sandwich (i.e. at Blue fasade for 10-20DH, walking at the street from fish stands to the medina).
There are many reasonable restaurants and cafes on the main streets and squares.
Upscale restaurants worth a mention are Taros (2, rue de la Sqala Tel: 044 47 64 07) which combines a French-Moroccan restaurant, a gallery and a terrace bar with live local music and "5" (rue Youssef el fassi) for its elegant ex-pat vibe.
- La triskalla, Rue Touahen (in the Medina), ☎ "+212, . Restaurant (excellent Vegetarian food and Fish), Creperie, Galerie. Cosy environment in an old Riad, friendly service. Free internet for customers (WiFi + PC available). between 20 and 60dh per meal.
- Patisserie Driss - close to the main square is a great place for cakes and snacks
- Fish Market, Essaouira local market. If you are a fish enthusiast, you cannot miss the food in the market. Buy your fish (cheap, shirmps are 50dh/kilo, sardines 5dh/6, etc) take it to the small kitchen / restaurant and let them cook it for you. They add salad, olives and bread for 25dh. Really fun, cheap and good food! (The food here is NOT cheap - see cautionary tale above) buy the fish + 25dh for the baking.
- La decouverte, 8 bis, rue Houmman el Fatouaki, ☎ 024 47 31 58, . If you are tired of tagines, disappointed by italian-moroccan pasta, give La Decouverte a try. A french couple cooks with moroccan ingredients, moroccan like recipes but with french hand. Nice atmosphere, correct prices. Go for it mains 50dh - 80dh.
- La Licorne, 26 rue scala, ☎ 024 47 36 26 ([email protected], fax: 024 47 59 71), . A great place in Essaouira for a romantic diner, or between friends, and for all of you who like to enjoy Moroccan dishes along with one of the country's finest wine. mains 160dh.
Mint tea is available for about 6DH all over the town, or for free if you are invited in by any carpet salesman who will assure you you are entering "just for a look."
Some of the hotels have licensed bars, but it's hard to beat the terrace bar of the Taros (2 Rue de la Sqala) for its view over the lively Place Moulay el Hassan and the harbour.
- Dar Lazuli ([email protected]), 7 Moussa ben Noussaire (Essoauira Medina, 2 mins from beach), . Dar Lazuli is a 200 year old riad in Essaouira, lovingly renovated to retain its original features in harmony with contemporary designs and comforts for a 21st Century visitor. It’s located just inside the medina walls and beside the main square. Comfortable and easy boutique self-catering apartments where you can completely relax, forget about the real world and immerse yourself in North African escapism. £60 per night.
Hotels and riads
- If arriving by bus, local women will surround you as you exit offering discount Riads or accommodation in their homes for as little as 150dnr, though you will not get a view of the ocean for this. There are many hotel options available so feel free to bypass them. You can always return to the bus station and they will still be there.
- Riad des Deux Rives, Medina of Essaouira, ☎ +33664098991 ([email protected]), . A Riad of the XVIII th century in Essaouira. Double: €60, suite: €90.
- Hotel Smara, 26 Rue de la Skala, Tel: 044-472334, is one of the cheapest (and therefore most popular) hotels in town, so you may need to book ahead during peak season. The spartan roof terrace has nice views over the cannons used in the opening sequence of Orson Welles Othello. Singles / doubles with shared bath start from Dh 47 / Dh 96. CAUTION The hotel is very cheap and popular with lovely views from the terrace; but unless you want to experience bedbugs, cold showers and non-flushing toilets... I'd consider paying a bit more and staying somewhere else! It's not worth the bites, or going to the toilet on someone elses sick!
- Riad Malaika, 17 Rue Zayanne, Tel: 044.473861, Email: [email protected], provides an authentic Riad stay. This former Moroccan home has been beautifully restored and converted and is in the center of town. The staff is extremely hospitable and courteous. It has a beautiful terrace rooftop perfect for private lounging. Rooms are charming and tastefully decorated and run from 500dh to 1000dh, including breakfast (discounts available in the low season and for longer stays).
- Sofitel Thalassa Mogador, Tel: 47 23 34. Right on the beach, it will be happy to indulge your every whim, for a hefty price. Singles / doubles start at Dh 1400 / Dh 1850 during low season but can rocket up to Dh 1890 / Dh 2430 during the peak new year period. Luxury suites are also available and there's a Sofitel-branded health spa next door for those in urgent need of a hydrotherapy session and facial.
If you're looking for longer term or apartment accommodation, try:
- Jack's Apartments, 1 Place Moulay Hassan, Tel: 044-475538, Fax: 044-476901, Email: [email protected], ; Family run business, renting out a group of about 12 apartments. Prices are a little higher than the Riad's though you get good privacy and excellent ocean view's.
- Apartment Simoom, The apartment is 3 minutes stroll from the centre of Essaouira's beach, and directly inshore from the Club Mistral Kitesurf/Windsurf Centre. Tel: 00447515771251, Email: [email protected], . Apartment Simoom is a new property, incorporating traditional Moroccan touches into a clean comfortable modern apartment. Occupying the top floor of one of Essaouira's most prestigious new apartment blocks, the flat has a very light and airy feel with high ceilings helping to keep it deliciously cool during the day. Bedrooms and balcony overlook a Plaza, with views to the Medina, Forest and Beach, whilst the Roof Terrace gives uninterrupted 360 degree views across the Town, Beach and Countryside. Next to the Apartment are a supermarket and a pharmacy, and across the plaza is a patisserie and a restaurant.
Avoid the space cake dealers and do not let them fool you into thinking that it is ok for tourists to use small amounts of cannibis.