Morocco in the winter is a delightful getaway from the European winter. Mid January 2013 I was in Essaouira, a laid back beautiful 18th century port town. Being on the coast, sea breezes mixed with the calls of gulls give me a free feeling whilst walking on the ancient ramparts and enjoying the relaxed activity in the fishing harbor. This port is much older, in the 7th century BC the Phoenicians settled here primarily for the fishing and a special purple dye obtained from the local molluscs. In the 15th century the Portuguese made it one of their military & trading coastal towns, although losing it a century later to the Saadians. The present day old fortified city was designed by a French architect in the 18th Century. The town had an important role in the trade between Timbuktu and Europe.
The beach is buzzing with kite surfers, footballers, beachbums and people like myself just enjoying the sunset. In the bay a few islands can be seen, known as ‘ Île de Mogador’ or also ‘Iles Purpuraires’. The Romans and Phoenicians had discovered the importance of these islands for the good fishing waters, though more so to collect a local Shell – the ‘Murex’ for extraction of a special purple dye. On the island the reamins of 19th century bastions, a fort, mosque and a prison can be found. Now the islands are protected as bio-ecological nature reserve, several birds breed here and one is the rare and endangered Eleonora falcon.
Sunset on the beach with Île de Mogador in the bay
Beachlife in the Moroccan winter & a view of the town. The red building is the lovely Le Médina Essaouira Hotel to get pamperd.
The place to watch the sunset is to head up to the ramparts in the medina – the ‘Skala de la Ville’. A magnificent bastion built on the cliffs, the old canons are still positioned as if to protect the town. Ahhhh… to gaze across the crashing waves and the watch the sky turn darker shade of deep purple. The medina itself oozes long forgotten times; small alleyways, old doors and a hive of activity. Now in the old buildings and former ammunition depots are shops, ateliers and cafes, on one of the terraces we settle with our nus-nus (½coffee ½ milk) and watch the evening bustle.
Old doors and pretty knockers
The picturesque blue fishing boats, fishermen mending their nets, fresh fish being sold make the old harbour-port most photogenic and divine to walk around. Easy to make a chat and join the locals in lingering and watching the others. Also here you’ll find some great ramparts ‘Skala du Port’ which give good views over the fishing port, fish stalls and Île de Mogador.
The fishing port
Skala du port
Going through the above entrance gate you’ll walk into the wide large square ‘Place Moulay Hassan’ with a striking building at the far end before entering the medina ‘Casa Vera’ – a tapas bar. Also here fish, shellfish and fresh orange juice stalls. What bliss with a good 23 degrees Celsius!
Place Moulay Hassan
Clearly an animated chat in the morning sun