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Fast Facts
  • Location: On the western coast of Morocco
  • Attraction Type: Historic fortified town
  • Significance: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Best Time to Visit: Throughout the year
  • How to reach: By train or bus from Marrakech
  • Nearest Airport: Marrakech Menara Airport
Essaouira a fortified town in Western Morocco has a rich cultural heritage dating back to ancient times. This harbor town is an attractive destination for pilgrims, historians, and water sport adventurers alike. With a laid back ambiance Essaouira has a medieval charm featured by its narrow labyrinthine streets lined with shops and eateries. The lethargic environment of this vibrant city is tempting and even attracts celebrities every year. Actor and director Orson Welles shot many scenes of his film ‘Othello’ in these labyrinths in the early 1950s. Welles supposedly met Winston Churchill in this town during shooting this movie.

The walled city or Medina of Essaouira dates back to prehistoric times when it was a quaint harbor protected from the strong prevailing winds by Mogador Island. In ancient times it thrived as a port for trading Tyrian purple dye. In the late Middle Ages this town emerged as a premier port for exporting molasses and sugar. Essaouira in Morocco as we know it today was set up in the 18th century during the reign of Mohammed III. He directed Theodore Comut, a French engineer and slave to build a fortified city resembling those in Europe. Originally termed ‘souira’ or ‘small fortress’, it was later renamed ‘Essaouira’ meaning ‘the beautifully designed. Today, this historic harbor town has attained the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Essaouira Activities

The fortified city of Essaouira is a pilgrimage for Jews. Every year thousands of them visit the grave of Rabbi Chaim Pinto and the Chaim Pinto Synagogue. If you visit this Moroccan town in the last week of June you could be a witness to Gnaoua World Music Festival. Artists from all corners of the globe participate in this program featuring jazz, rock, and reggae.

The strong prevailing winds allows for exciting windsurfing and kite surfing adventures. Cape Sim, Mouley Bouzertone, Sidi Kaouki, and Essaouira Bay are the prime locations for these water sports. The strong breeze makes strolling on the beaches a charming experience. Even the city streets provide excellent walking trails. The absence of motor vehicles on the streets of Essaouira is conspicuous. Discover little shops selling brightly colored fabrics and handcrafted artifacts. If you love the countryside then go on an exploration trip on horseback. The Thuya Forests, Argan Woods, and Diabat Village are outstanding locations for a splendid horse ride.

Accommodation and Dining in Essaouira

While visiting Essaouira, ‘riads’ or private homes are attractive options for putting up. Riad Malaika, and Riad des Deux Rives are the notable among these. You might also stay in Sofitel Thalassa Mogador or Hotel Smara.

Essaouira is a place renowned for its seafood delicacies. You could buy fishes from the local market and have them cooked for you in the many eateries lining the streets. For local recipes La Licorne and La Triskalla are the perfect places to go to. For confectioneries Patisserie Driss is a splendid place.


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