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Exploring Essaouira Morocco

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Essaouira is a beach town about a 3-hour drive from Marrakesh. It’s less expensive and easier to navigate than Marrakesh, and the food and shopping are incredible. Like Chicago, Essaouira is known for being windy. The sea breeze keeps Essaouira from becoming too hot for the summer, and it is a retreat from Marrakesh which gets unbearably hot in the summer months.

We arrived in Essaouira in the evening, and by that time we had been in Morocco for a week. We needed a break from tagines, so we headed to Gusto Italian, a small but charming restaurant by the beach, and it was delicious. I had ricotta ravioli made with freshly made pasta and a light lemon butter sauce. The wines were affordable, and the tiramisu was a delight. The total bill for the three of us came to only about $60.

The next morning, we went out to explore the market in the Medina – and it had better shopping and better prices than Marrakesh. Many of the goods you will find are the same as the souks in Marrakesh. Many of the souks have rugs and blankets, leather goods, ceramics, spices, argon oil, and clothing.

Before we started shopping we stopped at Patisserie Driss for breakfast. The bakery serves freshly made pasteries and omelets, it’s located right in the Medina, and its prices are far more reasonable than our hotel’s. We each got omelets, tea, juice, and pastries and the total was just $15. If like to eat, Essaouira is the place for you. We noticed that the food had more of a French influence than the cuisine in Marrakesh.

After eating a big meal for breakfast, it was time to shop. Kelly bought some beautiful wooden instruments for about $15 each. I couldn’t resist buying another Berber Wedding Blanket. I love the big sequins on these blankets. We also got some more ceramics.

The souks in the Medina in Essaouira seemed calmer and were much easier to navigate. No one harassed us at all. Plus, since Essouira is much smaller we didn’t worry about getting lost. Kelly and my Mom repeatedly commented that they wished someone had told them to save all of their shopping for Essaouira. We thought it was easier and less expensive.

After the market, we walked over to the old fortress in the port. Kelly explained that this is a filming location for Game of Thrones.

The top of the fortress offers sweeping views of the city and the port, and was a nice spot to take photos.

I took advantage of the fact that Kelly doesn’t mind being my photographer and got her to take a bunch of photos for me. I am wearing the hat Charles bought for me in San Juan when I was having a bad hair day.

Essaouira is known for its vibrant blue fishing boats and they were all lined up on the waterfront.

At lunch time a bunch of restaurants beside the port serve simply prepared fresh fish.

We opted to go to Taros Restaurant for lunch, since it had been recommended on several websites. The restaurant/bar has a huge multilevel rooftop terrace with views of the city and waterfront.

The food was excellent, and a bit more Mediterranean than Moroccan. We had baked brie, a beet and goat cheese salad, patatas bravas, and an artichoke tagine.

Kelly and my Mom really wanted to go horseback riding, so I agreed to a two-hour sunset horseback riding excursion. I don’t know much about horseback riding, and I always seem to get the naughty horse.

This time my horse, Flamenco, wanted to eat all of the trees in sight, and when we got to the beach he decided to get down and roll around in the sand. He definitely had a mind of his own, and luckily I was able to jump off the horse before he could crush me in the sand. Meanwhile, Kelly was singing songs to her horse about what a good horse he was. The horseback riding was only $75 for three people – such a deal. Maybe just don’t pick Flamenco.

That night we went to The Loft for dinner. It’s right in the Medina, and it was one of the best meals we had in Morocco. Their specialty is a more modern Moroccan cuisine, which was perfect since we still weren’t ready for more tagines. We ordered a crispy chicken with an avocado sauce, a noodle dish with chicken and vegetables, and beef with pears and mashed potatoes. And we all loved the crispy goat cheese rolls with almonds, raisins, and honey that we shared as a starter. Unbelievably, this meal cost less than $50 total.

While in Essaouira we stayed at the Sofitel, but I would not recommend it. When we arrived we were told that my prepaid reservation had been canceled, and our room had an open shower without a shower curtain (it was so odd it is hard to describe), and the rooms didn’t have hair dryers or hangers. The grounds and the pool were lovely though.

We were in Essaouira at the end of March, and the weather was warm and pleasant, but it wasn’t beach weather. We happened to be in town for the end of the Gazelle Rally, a women’s only car rally with participants from 30 countries. It was something that our desert guides had excitedly mentioned to us. The women drive through Morocco for days, without the use of GSP – just a map and a compass. The rally is not a race, the women who hits the check points while driving the fewest miles is the winner, not the person with the fastest time. The race takes the women through the mountains and desert. It was fun to see the women arriving in town proudly waving their country’s flags as the press took photos.

Have you been to Essaouira? What were your thoughts? Did you like it more than Marrakesh?

Sarah Christie

Sunday 28th of May 2017

Ooh it looks amazing, not somewhere I have ever considered travelling to but I think we would really love it as a family, the souks looks great and I love the fact that you were not harassed as that really stresses me out. Thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes x


Tuesday 30th of May 2017

Thanks Sarah! I think it would be a great family travel destination.

Kayleigh Woodland

Wednesday 24th of May 2017

Wow what an amazing adventure. So many colours! Just beautiful! #MondayEscapes


Wednesday 24th of May 2017

Thanks Kayleigh!


Sunday 21st of May 2017

Morocco is top of my travel list for next year! thanks for bringing to my attention this place, it does indeed sound like a good retreat from Marrakesh. I'll consider a different hotel though! :) Nice video!


Monday 22nd of May 2017

I definitely recommend Essaouira - and hopefully you can find a better hotel. We just picked it because it was only $120 a night.

Vanessa Brune

Saturday 20th of May 2017

I would love to visit Morocco one day and Essaouira certainly seems charming. Plus, I definitely wouldn't mind eating all that food!!


Monday 22nd of May 2017

The food was delicious! And it is so beautiful in Essaouira. It was my Mom's favorite.

Ken J

Saturday 20th of May 2017

Yes we too arrived in Essairro as part of our tour of Morocco. Tour starting in Casablanca then on to , Rabat, Meknes, Fez, Ifrane, Merzouga, Ourrazzate, Marrakech, Essairro, and back to Casablanca, tour operator Elite travel Best of Morocco. We arrived early February, weather was averaging 18 celcius and no rains throughout the tour. Tho we were only in Essourria for one night staying at the Essourria Atlas Hotel , this was a beautiful oceanfront hotel however our rooms were facing the back. We enquired as to upgrading to a ocean view room and got the rude response that tour groups do not get those rooms! Meanwhile the hotel at the time was quarter full. Yes shopping was nice and no bartering allowed and prices very fair in Essourria The downside of being in Morocco was that throughout the journey, that if you we did not speak the local language ( french), that we would be neglected or served last or disrespected. The food throughout Morocco became reputitious, tagine food was just too much as what you saw at breakfast seemed served all day and night. The Medinas throughout seemed similiar , from Fez to Marrakech not so much difference except for the snake charmers. We are glad we did the trip , highlights Casablanca and Merzouga Sahara camel sunrise trek , but would I recommend Morocco to friends to travel to? Probably not.....Morocco has become too busy and from city to the next is almost the same, just like the food. Too add we always kept our cheerful friendliness and kindness. Before arriving in Morocco we were in Jordan and we highly recommend as the trip was unbelievable and the people throughout were so kind and welcoming, we did not want to leave! Yes the food was fantastic and far more quality and selections for westerners!


Monday 22nd of May 2017

Hi Ken! Thanks for your thoughtful comment! Were you part of a tour group? I wonder if that is why you had a different experience. I am so surprised that you experienced poor service. I am so sorry about that. I am thrilled to hear that you loved Jordan, I am hoping to get there soon!

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