Day trip! Our destination: the beautiful coastal fishing town of Essaouira
Essaouira has an interesting history. Today, it’s a favorite destination for the picturesque fishing harbor, the twisting little alleyways, and the sand, sea and surf. It used to be a hippie hangout for surfers and expat artists, and though the city now hosts a broader range of visitors, you can still see and hear the hippie/artist vibe in many places in town.
Yes! Those are goats in the tree! What the heck is the deal with that?! I’ll tell you.
The argan tree is found in Morocco and Algeria. The tree bears a fruit that contains a hard nut in the center. The nut contains one (occasionally two or three) small, oil-rich seeds. Argan oil is produced in the southwestern part of Morocco. It is made by roasting the seeds (which gives the oil its distinctive nutty flavor), and then grinding the seeds to a paste. The paste is then squeezed by hand to extract the oil.
It so happens that goats love the leaves and fruit of the argan tree. The fruit of the tree takes a year to ripen, so goats are kept away from the trees until that time. After that, the trees are a goat free-for-all, which is what this picture is showing.
Our bus pulled into the station in Essaouira at about noon. This gave us almost five hours to explore Essaouira. The main entry to the medina is Bab Marrakech. The walk to the gate is just a few minutes from the bus station. On the walk, you pass the south bastion, which currently houses the Ensemble Artisanal.
It looks like cats aren’t confined to Marrakech only. As you’ll see, there are plenty in the other cities, too.
The medina is the very essence of Essaouira, where every body eats, shops, and wanders. When you enter, you walk up a long busy street, the Rue Mohammed al Qorry.
This street eventually intersects with Avenue de l’Istiqlal. At the intersection of these two streets, you’ll find the souks. There is a souk for fish, a souk for spices and grain, and a little square called Joutia where second hand items are auctioned. While strolling through the souks, I noticed there was no shortage of cats, like this one resting in the shade of a cabinet,
The winding streets were peaceful and pretty, and it reminded me a lot of Mykonos in some ways,
The cats here in Essaouira seems more relaxed and in better shape than those in Marrakech.
The bastion once held emergency supplies of freshwater, and the large circle of stones in the center is what was called a “call point”, an alarm system to warn of approaching invaders. Guards would warn of danger by stomping on the circle, which causes the sound to echo loudly. This is something I couldn’t try, because the circle was occupied by a bunch of free-spirited young kids playing music and dancing.
Everyone was chanting to the music and having a great time. From the north bastion, we headed down a little to the ramparts. Essaouira’s current layout is traced back to 1765. That year, the town’s local ruler captured a French ship and hired one of the passengers to rebuild his port. He had the city surrounded with a heavy defensive wall, and most of it still stands. The most impressive stretch of wall is the cannon-lined Skala de la Ville.
We descended from the rampart and strolled through the Kasbah area, eventually finding our way to Plaza Moulay Hassan. This is the focal point of Essaouira, where you find most of the restaurants and cafés.
As for bastions, Essaouira has three of them – the southern one, which we saw at the entry; the northern one, with the cannons; and this third one, the port bastion, which overlooks a little quay filled with striking blue boats. It makes for a picture-postcard view, as you can see
There’s a beach at Essaouira, and I wanted to check it out. The stroll from the port to the beach is a brief one. On the way, just outside the medina, is a small park-like square that goes by the name Place Orson Welles, in honor of the filmmaker who came here in 1949 to film Othello.
The beach was okay. Not especially pretty, and not much sunbathing was going on. Sunbathing involves showing skin, and Moroccans, being Muslim, aren’t particularly keen on showing it. Instead, you’ll find kids playing soccer.
I also recorded yet another act of kindness toward cats in Morocco, namely, this gentleman about to put a handful of dry food down for these cats.
I suppose it was rude of me to watch. Sorry. We finally got to the exit gate (Bab Marrakech, the same gate we came in), where this cute cat was posing next to a cannon.
For our last night in Marrakech, we wanted to eat the street food at the food stalls in the Djemma el Fna. Every night we saw the smoke rising from the grills.
You can’t come to Marrakech and not partake.
So, we found a food stall that seemed
popular with the locals,