Essaouira - the Medina at the ocean
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Smaller and more laid back then Marrakech, Essaouira is definitely one of the most attractive of the Moroccan Atlantic coastal towns. So laid back is it that the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley found it a perfect spot to unwind and absorb the mellow scene, making it a port of call, so to speak, of the hippy trail in the 1960s. It is also famous as the wind surfing capital of Morocco as well as its long sandy beach so, in short, cool dudes will love it.
This is particularly so as it has been relatively untainted by the ravages of tourism. It remains a charming fortified seaside town to this day with a wide range of architectural styles, blue-shuttered, whitewashed houses, quiet squares, art galleries and beautiful long beaches.
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Essaouira is designed for unwinding. Go down to the port at lunchtime or in the evening you’ll see the stalls of fish which the local boatmen have brought in. Haggle for the price of a fresh bass or bream and they’ll grill it there right in front you on the hot coals.
There’s no better way than this to eat fish and with a view of the Atlantic rolling out in front and the walls of the old city all around there’s probably nowhere more suggestive either. If you are feeling active then you could try windsurfing or kite surfing on the endless beach just outside the old city walls, the wind is reliable here and it’s a bit of a hotspot for those in the know.
You might fancy galloping across the beach on horseback (horses are brought down to the seafront just for the purpose and a couple of hours’ ride is very cheap – select only those horses that are well-cared for though) but if all that sounds like too much stress then there’s always time for a little shopping.
Essaouira has pretty much everything that you might want to do or buy in Marrakech but, as we might have mentioned, in a more laid back environment.
Gastronomy in Essaouira
In Essaouira you can get the best fish of Morocco. Of course, there are also other traditional Maroccan dishes like Tajines (hotspot), Couscous, Brochette (meat skewer) and Mechoui (lamb cooked in a special oven).
What you should try: the traditional mint tea. It's not just tea, it's a real ceremony!