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Essaouira (الصويرة) is a coastal city in Morocco. In addition to the new town, it offers a picturesque medina (old town) surrounded by seawalls and city walls, designed by a French architect in the 18th century, a harbor with fish market, and a long beach with numerous water sports opportunities. Once a hippie hangout, Jimmie Hendrix and Cat Stevens spent some time here. Orson Welles filmed part of his Othello in town; west of the medina there's a square named in his honor.
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Points of Interest in Essaouira
Essaouira is a perfect example of a late 18th century fortified town, with the original canons still in place and where Orson Wells shot his Othello, "The Moor of Venice".
Popular events in Essaouira in the near future
- Stroll through the medina: check out the fish market at the west end, watch the sunset from the seawall at the Place Moulay Hassan, visit the Scala (wall tower north east of the Place), walk through the markets towards Bab Doukkala at the east end, and check out the artisan's shops near the eastern wall.
- 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. However, this is not the ideal place to learn watersports, particularly kitesurfing. There tends to be a bit of a catch 22 - either its calm and you can't go out because there's no wind or its windy and you can't go out because there is a huge shore break. In addition the water can smell of sewage.
- Dar Sultan: walk south along the beach, cross the shallow river Oued Igrounzer and in the hills to your left you will see the ruins of a once magnificent 18th century palace used by Sultans and Kings. A path leads there; you can still find some old floor mosaics and thankfully the ruins offer some shade.
- The nearby town of Diabat is at the south 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 visited 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 3 km from the medina, accessible by taxi). from 8AM to 8PM. 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 from town to the departure point of each walk is included.
- World Music Festival. In June :
Although Essaouira is on the sea, fish are quite expensive. Fishermen sell their catch through the market hall and you can have it cooked at the small stands nearby. Prices are clearly marked by 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.Sample price: I payed 5 DH for pack of fresh sardins (10 one of them) in fish market. 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 Skala 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 (0) 24-47 63 71. Restaurant (excellent Vegetarian food and Fish), Creperie, Galerie. Cosy environment in an old Riad, friendly service. Free internet for customers (WiFi + PC available).
- 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, shrimps 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 cook in a Moroccan style but with a French twist. Nice atmosphere, good prices. Go for it mains 50dh - 80dh.
- La Licorne, 26 rue scala, ☎ 024 47 36 26, fax: 024 47 59 71, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A great place in Essaouira for a romantic dinner, 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.
- Riad El Baraka, 113, rue Mohammed El-Qorry, e-mail: email@example.com. Set in a former Jewish school, this hip place has several dining rooms and a bar set around a large courtyard in the shade of a huge fig tree. The food is mainly Moroccan with some Middle Eastern and Jewish influences, the decor cool, and there’s live music by local bands at weekends.
- La Cantina, 66 Rue Boutouil, ☎ 024 47 45 15. If you're fed up by tajines and couscous, this mexican food restaurant will be your oasis. ~70dh.
- Shyadma's Vegan Food, 20, Rue Laalouj - Place El Khayma. Lovely vegan/vegetarian spot in the middle of Place El Khayma, a less visited place with many restaurants. Shyadma's is tiny, but everything is made from seasonal vegetables and fruits from the nearby market. You will most likely have to wait 15-20 minutes for your grub, but it's well worth the wait. If you call this Moroccan slow food, you will be very right. A refreshening delight for foodies, especially vegetarians and vegans!
Mint tea is available for about 6dh all over 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 Skala) for its view over the lively Place Moulay el Hassan and the harbour.
An off-license, the only one in town, can be found outside of Bab Doukkala on the Boulevard al Massira, to the right. Just inside this gate is the "black market" for alcohol on religious holidays and at night. Just ask the boys selling loose cigarettes!
Locals can be seen quite openly, if discreetly, to roll joints and smoke hashish outside cafes in the harbour and the people are generally very relaxed. It is highly illegal though and not recommended unless you're feeling very safe about it!
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.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Essaouira on Wikivoyage.