When the intense summer heat and the hustle and bustle of Marrakech get too much, those in the know head two and a half hours west to Essaouira, once also known as Mogador. First ‘discovered’ in the Swinging Sixties by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones, this historic small fishing port on the Atlantic coast, with its pretty blue and white medina overlooking a seemingly endless golden beach, remains a firm favourite with actors, musicians and those who appreciate its laid back charm and relaxing ambience.
Small cafes and beach bars invite you to while away the hours over mint tea or a cool drink and authentic restaurants offer freshly caught fish or delicious tagines. Follow the cobbled alleyways and you will find artisan shops selling all manner of exotic goods from locally sourced argan oil and thuya wood to spices, magic potions, babouches (leather slippers), rugs and silver worked camel bone mirrors. The lively souk offers a glimpse of the Arabic way of life, selling the freshest plumpest fruit as well as recycled dentures and many fascinating items in between!
The climate in Essaouira is fairly moderate, with temperatures ranging on average from 16° c to 28° c , summer and winter. Days are usually sunny and warm, on some rare occasions a rain storm will blow in from the sea in the afternoon, evenings are cooler. During the height of the summer months, the winds blow in from the Atlantic on some days, making Essaouira the ideal place to kite or windsurf. On those occasions, sheltered beach clubs or publicly accessible hotel pools offer calm refuge to sun worshippers. Quad biking, horse trekking and camel riding, beach volleyball, boating and golf at the Mogador Golf Club designed by Gary Player are available for the sporty types. Finally, a visit to one of the hammams (similar to a Turkish bath) or the Thalasso spa will leave you both invigorated and relaxed.
Essaouira is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is also home to the famous Gnaoua World Music Festival for four days every June. For centuries Muslims, Christians and Jews have lived peacefully side by side in this ancient little fishing port which was one occupied by the Portuguese. It is a very safe and relaxed environment, suitable for families and there is no particular dress code; you will see heavily veiled Muslim matrons as well as bikini clad girls. Going topless, however, is illegal. Alcohol is served in most bars and restaurants but you will not find any food containing pork.