Going back to places you love after being away for a long time is almost always an interesting experience. We both fell in love with Essaouria many, many years ago when we came here early on in our relationship and Essaouira has remained in our memories as a very special place. At the time we wondered in what time line and circumstances we might come back here one day.
On our first visit we learnt a valuable lesson in Essaouria which gave us a reference point in travel to learn from. After 3 days or so of time here, we opted to move on, to the next place further North as there was more to see… Rabat, Fez etc. Yet in retrospect once we moved on we realized we should have stayed longer and it was afterwards referred to by us, as an “Essaouira moment”… which means, that when we come to a place we instinctively fall for and love being in, we try to stay. Not rushing to the next place, just staying and enjoying the amazing place in which we find ourselves. And so this time, that is exactly what we do, for our whole time in Morocco.
We “ditch” our large 3 bedroom home exchange house in Marrakech with housekeeper ( all at no cost), for a tiny bedroom in a hotel for $35 a night which has a view through the fortress wall towards the sea and an upstairs terrace which serves free killer breakfasts of fresh orange juice, cappucino and a basket piled with fresh bread with heaps of butter and jam and seagulls. And a 360 deg view every morning across the square, the harbor, the fortress and the glistening surface of the ocean. Just as we remembered it!
We take a vacation. No work, just enjoying our time in the sunshine eating freshly grilled sardines and fresh grapefruit juice at the harbor front, and taking long walks on the beach, the rocks and through the boat yard, the fish market and the soukh.
Essaouria is a painters paradise. The colors are intoxicating! Bright blue of the sky, deep cerulean blue of the sea, the sand, stones, whitewashed walls and blue frames all make me want to paint.
We seriously consider renting a space and staying here for an undetermined amount of time… (Ultimately the fact that there is no airport in Essaouira and that the languages spoken are French and Arabic, we decide to stick to the plan and head to our next home exchanges waiting for us in Spain and Portugal.)
So did Eassouira live up to the memory?
Absolutely! Completely. The architure is as beautiful as remembered and more… 18 years has barely changed the authenticity of the town and because waters are very shallow near shore, the harbor cannot handle large ships which has kept Essaouira the small fishing village it always was. The activity of the fishing port is intense and authentic. An unforgettable scene: The dock-side fish market right next to the boats which come in every day with fish to be auctioned, resold and grilled on the street.
To be sure our experience reflects one of our travel secrets: to travel in low season, which means… more locals, less tourists.
This is Essaouira! a charming Portuguese fort town that is a painter’s paradise.
Sea, seagulls, rocks, colorful wooden boats, fortress walls and an ancient whitewashed village. PERFECT!
One of the paintings inspired by our visit here years ago. Essaouria makes me want to paint!
We both really love this place and love being here. The combination of colors and authenticity of the fishermans village, remain hugely appealing to both of us.
At the docks, the smell of fish and salt hang in in the air.
Behind this fortress wall, the sea crashes against the rocks and the sea gulls swoop in for fish scraps. The ancient “caves” in the fortress are now used as storage by fishermen.
Old and beautifully shaped wooden boats are brought here for repair.
Love the texture and colors on the boats from years of repairs, repainting and time at sea.
These Essaouira blues are repeated in the trim around houses and on doors, in the sea and the sky.
Ben can wear his Indian clothes with ease here and fit right into the landscape and cultural environment.
There is a new part to the shipyard repair for building new boats. Each boat made from local wood, takes a full year to build!
Love the casual yet elegant pose of a fisherman proud of his table of long silver fish for sale.
Long and thin silver fish lined up for sale.
A sea of “Essaouira blue” boats in the “parking lot”, safely tucked in the harbor.
How do you like my new outfit from the souk in Essaouria? We do like to fit in and we do like the clothes here. (Our general approach: when we buy a piece of clothing, we get rid of something else, so that our luggage does not expand beyond control as we travel)
Piles of fishing nets stacked up for repair.
A bird tries to get to a trapped fish inside the ruby red fishing nets spread out for repair.
Almost every day, we had fresh grapefruit or orange juice, from our favorite juice guy. He gave two extra clementines telling Ben “pour la gazelle”, the endearing term Moroccan men use for women.
Our preference is a plate of freshly grilled sardines. Perfect meal!
On the rocks enjoying the bird life and the fresh sea air.
The rocks next to the fort wall are a great place for walking during low tide.
Good timing in the soukh as a woman walks in front of a painting on a wall duplicating the image.
Beautiful doors, tile work, stone sculpture make for decorated, beautiful entries to homes in the medina.
Beautiful shops line the inside of the fortress walls of the old city.
Two women chatting in front of a blue arched door. The sign indicates that Argan oil, a Moroccan cosmetic specialty for skin, is sold here. Turns out that Argan oil has many health benefits and is used for skin protection. Argan oil only seems to grow in Morocco.
Cactus flower fruit “a.k.a. Figues de Barbarie” – we popped a few of these in our mouths for instant anti-oxidant infusion, leaving our tongues and lips a bright fuchsia red.
Whitewashed walls, shadows and blue window shutters.
The souk is full of interesting and colorful craft and people. Moroccan leather “slip on” shoes hanging like a modern art installation, for sale here.
Fishermen sit behind this wall and clean fish, creating a frenzy of seagulls trying to get a part of the scraps.
This section of wall lines the large square, which is near to the harbor and ship yard.
Low tide on the beach creates some dramatic graphics for walking on, in the sand.
One of the best treats at the beach are the 25 cent paper cone of hot chick peas with a bit of salt. There was also a few guys with trays of cookies which included “space cookies” made from hash and marijuana.
A moment of quiet reflection in the sand dunes near the sea.
A long walk along the beach leads us to a small dune area. Camels amble slowly across the dunes.
Beautiful calligraphy ~ We have always been fascinated by Islamic Calligraphy…
One of the many magnificent sun sets at the end of each day in Essaouira.