About maroc-o-phile

The idea behind this website is to share my love of Morocco with anyone who is willing to open themselves to the sights, sounds, history, culture, crafts, cuisine and hospitality of this country. As far as I am aware, I am the only person blogging in Essaouira, about Essaouira, in English.

The website is a resource of information and images of Essaouira and Morocco and a portal to further information and advice.  We are happy to help you where we can if you have questions about travelling to Essaouira and in Morocco or would like to source Moroccan items such as handicrafts.  Just ask: your wish is our command!  (And if we can’t help, we’ll know someone who can).

maroc-o-phile.com also serves as a portfolio of original writing about my experiences in and impressions of Morocco.  I am available for freelance work, including travel writing, copy writing, translation and content provision as well as other consultancy services in management and marketing. If you like my writing style or would like further information on my work, please get in touch via info@maroc-o-phile.com

The website is also a window on Essaouira. I am based in this small Atlantic port and so naturally many of my photographs and images focus on the town and its environs. I am establishing a business here, so I hope that your curiosity about Morocco and maroc-o-phile.com will translate into an interest in other activities that I undertake. Ultimately, I hope that you too will become a maroc-o-phile!

The businesses listed here are personal recommendations based on my local knowledge and my sense of the principles on which the business operates. None of them have paid to be mentioned. Where I have received a gratuity or gift from a business, this is mentioned in the post.

About Essaouira

Essaouira Framed

Iconic view of Essaouira

Essaouira, in south Morocco, was once the port through which the bounty of the camel trains (including slaves from West- and Sub-Saharan Africa) was exported and it even served as the port for Timbuktu. In the halcyon days of the 60s it was on the hippy route – an extension of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Marrakech Express” if you like – and many local businesses still trade on the “Jimmy Hendrix was here” claim.

Today, Essaouira is still a bustling fishing port and you can eat delicious sardines and other fish literally straight off the boat.  It is also a haven for Moroccan and foreign artists, who have galleries in the labyrinthine streets of the UNESCO World Heritage listed medina (walled city). The vibe in Essaouira is considerably less bustling than in bigger Moroccan cities. The whitewashed walls; the typical blue doors and shutters of the buildings and the fact that one whole side of the medina is open to the sea (and the Atlantic breeze, les Alizés in French), make the place much airier and brighter than, for example the maze of the Fes medina.

Essaouira is also a Mecca for watersports and world music enthusiasts. The trade winds which helped established Essaouira’s port now make it Morocco’s top kitesurfing destination. Surfing and windsurfing locations are also available along the coast.

For world music fans, Essaouira’s Gnaoua World Music Festival every June is a must-see. The festival showcases the best of gnaoua music (a kind of Islamic spiritual music involving trancey beats and acrobatics) and music from around the world.  The main concerts are open air and free, and each foreign group performs a fusion gig with the gnaouis, which is really special.  However, all year round you can hear local and African instruments and attend small concerts all over town.

Essaouira’s history as the gateway to Africa, a Portuguese fortress (known as Mogador), a Jewish trading port, part of the French Protectorate of Morocco, as well as connections to Moorish Andalusia, have left an interesting heritage which is visible in the faces of its inhabitants as well as in their music and culture.

If all of that activity and history sounds a bit too much like hard work, visitors can take a leaf out of those hippies’ books and just relax.  Essaouira has a multitude of bars, restaurants and cafes, many with roof terraces. The beach is long curve of golden sand, right outside the city walls.  If you feel the need, there are plenty of shopping opportunities which are a lot more laid back than in the bigger city souks. Essaouira is the perfect place for chillin’!

Essaouira has an airport served by Ryanair (from Marseilles) and Transavia (from Paris-Orly). Easyjet have announced twice-weekly flights from London Luton from May 2015. The town is around 2.5 hours by taxi, private transfer or bus from Marrakech or a little further from Agadir, both of which are served by several airlines.

10 thoughts on “About maroc-o-phile

  1. Iola kreizman

    I am currently in marrekesh and looking to do some meditation and yoga course this week. Thursday-saturday or drop in classes. Where can I find in essaouia or marrekesh?

    Thank you
    Iola x

    Reply
    1. rose ratcliffe

      i think at cafe clock in the kasbah area they have yoga and a smotthie for 70 dh on a weds please check

      Reply
  2. Rakesh

    Thanks for your excellent “Top 5″ picks. I would appreciate your help in our planning for the festival next week.

    Are there chairs or benches at the large venues? Ditto: smaller venues? We are in our late 60s and can’t stand for long periods.

    Will we be able to get tickets when we get there (on the 12th evening)? Or would you recommend buying online
    (which may have a markup and which will likely still require in-person pickup anyway-)?

    Please reply as soon as is convenient for you.

    Many thanks!

    Rakesh

    Reply
    1. lynn Post author

      Hi Rakesh,
      thanks for your comments and questions.
      There are only seats (chairs, benches or pouffes) at the smaller venues (the ‘concerts intimes’ in the programme, which require have limited spaces and sometimes require a ticket, at a fee) – sometimes you may be expected to sit on the floor. The larger (free) concerts in the open air have no seats, although there are cafes and bars around the main square (Place Moulay Hassan) with a view of the stage where you might be lucky enough to grab a seat. The town gets very busy, so plan ahead to get a space/seat.

      You can buy tickets once you are here, but they may sell out for the smaller concerts. You don’t need a ticket for the big, free concerts unless you want to be in the VIP area at the front (no seats there either!). The only way to be sure of getting a ticket if you need one is to order it via the official Gnaoua Festival website. The tickets are not expensive by Western standards and if there is a mark-up, you might consider it worthwhile. Picking up or purchasing tickets is logistically straightforward and I have never seen a long queue at the ticket tent.

      I hope that’s helpful! Enjoy the festival!

      Reply
  3. aliya

    Very nice website!
    I am a Moroccan woman living in Rabat.
    I love the gnaoua music and festival but have attended only twice. Will be very happy to attend this year. Can’t find friends to go with. So I wonder if I can find an organized group onsite as I will be interested to do some hiking during the day and attend the concerts in the evenings. Would you have any suggestions or good addresses?
    Thank you!
    Aliya

    Reply
    1. lynn Post author

      Hi Aliya,

      thanks for getting in touch! I’m glad you like the website!
      I am not aware of organised groups who attend the Gnaoua Festival (other than tour groups from abroad), but once you are here you are sure to find interesting and friendly people to hook up with, for example at the place where you are staying or through your hiking trips.
      For accommodation, I recommend Dar Mouna Mogador in the medina. Jane, the manager, is very friendly, knows a lot about Moroccan music and is a font of local knowledge. I know she has some availability for the second half of the Festival. See: https://www.facebook.com/Dar.Mouna.Mogador
      As for hiking, I recommend Ecotourisme et Randonnées. They are knowledgeable, professional and have a great reputation. The guides speak Arabic, French and English: http://www.essaouira-randonnees.com/Bienvenue-Chez-Ecotourisme-et-Randonnees_a3.html
      I hope you have a great trip to Essaouira!
      Lynn

      Reply
  4. jean bilbrough

    just had another thought… do you have any advice re getting reliable /reasonable taxis from marakech to ess, or from ess. to marak. thank you so much kind regs.jc

    Reply

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