Midterm is a whole week off work, just begging to be filled with adventures. Essaouira is a 2 hour and 45 minute air-conditioned recliner-seat bus ride away from Marrakech. Why not go and get another Game of Thrones filming location photo as well as soak up some authentic Moroccan seaside atmosphere? Great choice, folks! Let me recount my 4 day trip to Essaouira in the hopes that paying a visit to this unspoilt little seaside spot will tickle your wanderlust fancy.
Morocco was pretty high up on my ‘must see’ list for years and rightly so. I just hadn’t realised how reasonable flights from Dublin could be. Ryanair return tickets for €150 was all the nudge I needed! My housemate and I did a little research and opted for a week long trip taking in a few days in both Essaouira and Marrakech. A flight to Marrakech and an overnight stay in an IBIS hotel by the bus station had us in a perfect location to roll out of bed and onto the bus. Essaouira is also a film location for hot HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’, as well as the location for Orson Wells’ ‘Othello’. Bonus reason to visit.
Seeing as it was the end of October, there was still some heat there and an excuse to bring a swimsuit. Before I left I had wondered how conservative Essaouira would be. I didn’t want to offend by flouting the rules and customs by being an arrogant tourist but also didn’t want to miss out on a few days by the pool. Sunbathing at the hotel pool and the beach loungers in a bikini is fine. But I wish I had brought less shorts and more light wear long trousers. While nothing was ever said to us, when we walked around in shorts and tank tops (with a cardi on over) I felt that I should be more covered up. Just something to be aware of.
We chose Le Médina, 5 * hotel, right by the seafront for a luxurious 3 night stay.The hotel has a lovely pool and plenty of sun loungers including a sun deck with day beds. There is also a Thalasso spa and restaurant at the hotel for more indulgence. At about €70 a night in November, why not treat yourself?
Essaouira’s bustling fishing harbour and colourful medina assault the senses and reminded me that I was no longer in Kansas (or Ireland, you get what I mean!). The photo ops are endless. Instagram was on overload that day! Rug stalls, tagine stands and spice markets line the narrow streets in the stone walled medina. And around every corner were cats. So many cats. One of my favourite sites in the medina was the cart overflowing with mint leaves. It was the most impressive amount of mint I have ever seen! Unfortunately the mint cart owner was not interested in having his photo taken and flat out refused to let me take a picture. Asking permission first is an obvious courtesy and I had to respect his wishes. The locals must be very sick of being the subjects of a million tourist’s photos.
I am not a great haggler but since it is an art form and expected in the medinas you just have to bite the bullet and go for it! Some great bargains were to be had if you fancy the challenge.
We ate at the delicious Le Sirocco restaurant. Rich, sumptuous tagines, reasonably priced Moroccan wine and a chocolatey dessert that I inhaled rather than savoured. The live music, friendly staff and authentic atmosphere made for a fun dining experience, you should try to visit at least once.
Another great spot for reasonably priced food that is not just tagines is Caravane Café. Hidden away upstairs in an unassuming building is a delightful restaurant with a stunning central, planted courtyard, from where musicians entertain guests. The tables are set around the balconies with views down to the courtyard below. We had a tasty meal and some vin du Maroc to while away a windy evening.
The fishing harbour is worth a post alone. A bustling dock with rustic fish stalls lining the road, all displaying a wide variety from the catch of the day. We even saw baby shark and crab. There was an abundance of boats, large and small, plenty of opportunities to tread in fish guts and you guessed it. Cats.
If it weren’t for the rather over powering smell I would have loved to have stayed there longer just watching the fishermen at work, the locals busying themselves with their weekly shop and the Berber men chatting by the weather beaten blue boats. There are a few seafood restaurants, serving freshly caught fish and crustaceans, just outside the harbour. They certainly work for your custom, accosting you at every step to ensure you realise their fish is the best and well worth your visit!
The only downside, I felt, was the over reliance on bread and bread type breakfast foods. SO much bread. I love fruit in the morning and cafés in Essaouira do eggs and bread and a pancake type thing with jams and honey but little fruit. Just so you know.
If you are looking for something to do to extend your trip to Marrakech then I definitely think Essaouira should be on your list.