It’s no secret I’m a beach lover, having lived by the ocean for 11 years. I’m a bit further from the beach than I’d like in England, despite it’s island status, and I’ve yet to explore some of the closer beaches. I guess the rain, weather, and rocky shores make it less exciting. However, I jumped at the opportunity to explore Essaouira, a coastal city in Morocco. A friend of mine lived in Rabat, Morocco and had the opportunity to travel the country. When she told me Essaouira was one of her favorite places in Morocco, the decision was made to book a day trip! Essaouira is an 18th century fortified city and it’s proximity to the ocean made it an important seaport.
Our tour made a few stops on the way, the first being one of my favorite experiences — goats in trees! Yes, you read that right, goats that climb trees. It was obvious that this was “staged” in this particular location and the goats’ owner was charging people to take pictures (so worth it!). Oddly enough, these goats were not chillin in the trees on our way home at 6pm, nor was the farmer standing next to the tree. BUT, I’ve learned that goats in trees are a natural thing elsewhere. In parts of Morocco, the dry soil makes it difficult for the goats to find food. So, they climb the argan trees to eat the fruit on the trees. We learned that some argan oil factories use this to their advantage because after the goat digests the argan seeds they “release” them back to the ground, already broken down, thus doing part of the job! So if you are using Moroccan Argan Oil on your face or hair, there’s a chance a goat has pooped out the raw ingredients that go into your product…..
Speaking of argan oil, our next stop was to visit an argan oil consortium where we learned about the process of marking argan oil, and good sample the products. Products were also for sale (and of course I purchased a bottle of argan oil for my hair even after learning the goat/poop fact). The great thing about this consortium is that it is 100% run and staffed by women. The women received a grant to start the business; the grant was part of a government program that seeks to create jobs for females. It was interesting watching the different steps of the process and learning how argan oil is produced.
When we arrived in Essaouira, we were greeted with the beautiful blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and children playing soccer in the sand on the beach. Our tour included a one hour guided tour, and then a few hours to explore the city on our own, before making the 2.5 hour drive back to Marrakech. Our guide met us outside the gate to the old city walls. He shared the history of Essaouira, and highlighted the fact that while Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country, people of many religions, including Christianity and Judiasm, have always peacefully coexisted in Essaouira. Differing from other parts of Morocco, Essaouira has European influence. During our tour, we headed to the port and learned about the local fisherman and the importance of the port. We also toured through some of the shops, many of which had artisan flare with unique gifts, ceramics, pottery, and crafts.
After we left our guide, we explored the city on our own. I was impressed with the market near the port. The fruits were so colorful and fresh, and smelled delicious! We ended up buying berries to eat as we walked. The food market is one long street, and worth the visit, although there is a strong fish smell in certain areas. We also headed to the souks, and explored the different shops with artisan goods. Before heading to the old fort to see the ramparts, we enjoyed a rooftop lunch at Restaurant Des Reves, where I had delicious monkfish skewers. It was a beautiful rooftop terrace with vibrant colors and overlooked the medina; I recommend checking it out if you’re in Essaouira.
After lunch we wandered around the Medina. We browsed the shops, visited the old fort, and went back to the sea port. We had an enjoyable day in Essaouira, and it was great to see the bright blues of the sky meet the colors of the Atlantic Ocean. It never gets old walking on the sand and listening to the waves crash! Essaouira is a beauitful city on the coast, and was a welcomed departure from the crowded streets of Marrakech. If you have time, it is well worth the visit. Our day was perfect, with one exception – our van waited around for a couple who showed up 40 minutes late to our departure point. Perhaps it was good customer service on their part, but it annoyed me, and I would’ve left their butts behind! What would you have done??