Essaouira - An artistic town with a coastal setting
Location: Morocco’s Atlantic Coast
Situated on the Atlantic Coast in western Morocco, Essaouira is a major port town in the Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz region of the country. The city, whose Arabic name is a reference to the fortress walls that surround it, is partly sheltered from heavy wave action by the Illes Purpuraires islands that lay just off the coast.
Business: Supported by local artisans and entrepreneurs
Not yet entirely overtaken by the tourism industry, Essaouira sustains itself on the numerous arts and crafts businesses that dominate its city centre. These endeavours include wood-carving, cabinet making, and cloth weaving, among others. Hotels and pensions cater to the needs of the ever-growing number of travellers and visitors.
Culture: A UNESCO World Heritage city centre
Home to scores of small but prominent local art galleries as well as an international music festival and boutique museum, Essaouira is brimming with Moroccan culture and local artistic talent. The city centre itself, referred to as the medina, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features narrow alleyways and outdoor markets surrounded by fortified walls. The Damgaard Art Gallery displays the work of local painters and sculptors, while the Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah Museum showcases authentic Moroccan jewellery, costumes, weapons, musical instruments, and hand-woven carpets. The Gnaoua Festival of World Music, which has been dubbed the “Moroccan Woodstock”, is held in June, and attracts over 450,000 international visitors who come to see the Gnaoua music performances as well as a handful of jazz, rock, and reggae concerts.
Activities: Windsurfing and camel excursions
Though the city’s trademark strong winds make the beach less than ideal for swimming and sunbathing, Essaouira’s relentless winds have grown the area into a popular kite surfing and windsurfing destination. Visitors can also take advantage of the city’s inland access to the desert: sign up for a camel excursion, rent quad bikes, or take a photography trip to capture shots of the area’s prolific sand dunes. In the city centre, take a cooking class to learn how to make local Moroccan dishes, experience a Berber massage, and observe the daily fish auction or shop from the local artisans’ street stands.