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 run twice-weekly flights from London Luton. 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.

30 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

    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

  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!


    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!

  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!

    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!

  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

  5. Kasia

    Hi! I am looking for a connection from Agadir Airport to Essaouira. We are arriving about 5 pm at 10 th Sept. Do you have any ideas? Only taxi or buses as well? I would llike to go straight to ess not to agadir at all. Thanks for answer. Your website is saved and will be very helpful.


    1. lynn Post author

      Hi Kasia,
      thanks for getting in touch. The information I have is here: http://maroc-o-phile.com/bus-from-agadir-to-essaouira
      The Pulman bus runs later in the evening, so that might be an option. Otherwise, your most reliable option is probably a private transfer. If you are interested, I can arrange this with my transport partner in Essaouira. Please send me an e-mail if you would like a quote.
      Safe travels!

  6. Richard

    Hi Lynn

    I need to arrange a transfer from essouria to tazgahout near agadir on this coming Monday morning. Can u help? I may also need to organise a return transfer on Friday 28 August

    Lovely website

    1. lynn Post author

      Thanks for your comments, Richard. I can arrange transfers through my local transport partner in Essaouira and have sent you a mail with the details. Have a great trip!

  7. Chris

    I have a severe nut allergy (I carry an epi-pen) and will be traveling to Marrakech. I want to try the local cuisine, but obviously I need to be careful as I do not speak the local language. Any suggestions for places to go or dishes to try? Thanks!

    1. lynn Post author

      Hi there,
      typical Moroccan savoury dishes such as tajine, couscous, salads, etc do not normally contain nuts. However, as you will know, this does not preclude them being prepared in a kitchen where nuts are present or by someone who has handled nuts. Moroccan sweet pastries and cakes often contain nuts and are best avoided.
      Your best bet is to dine in places where you can have a conversation with the chef, so in your riad (of you are staying in one) or in small restaurants where the owners are present and/or in the kitchen. You could also try a cookery class (I recommend Cafe Clock or Riad Shaden) and make your own nut-free delicacies!
      As for restaurants, you could try the Amal Centre, a social enterprise in Gueliz which trains local women and where they are always happy to help. Try also Cafe Clock, where all the staff speak excellent English and the camel burgers are legendary. Call ahead to explain your concerns.
      Also Essaouira-centric, there are some other tips on my FAQ pages: http://maroc-o-phile.com/frequently-asked-questions/
      Enjoy your trip!

  8. Liz O'Connor

    I have a severe nut allergy ( I carry an epi-pen) and will be traveling to Marrakech. I want to try to local cuisine, but I need to be careful as I do not speak the local language. Do you have recommendations of places or dished to try? Thank you.

  9. gaby scotti

    hello lovely this site of yours, feels as if I’ve already been welcomed to Ess though I’ve never actually been there.
    I am planning for a holiday with my family this coming August (2016) and have been searching for a family friendly typical Moroccan place not too far from the medina which is also wheelchair friendly.

    Any suggestions?

    thank you any help will be greatly appreciated. Gaby

    1. lynn Post author

      Hi Gaby,
      Glad you like the site!
      For the best wheelchair accessibility you are probably best looking into the bigger 5 star chain hotels (M Gallery or Atlas hotels). However, you could try Riad Zahra – they may have accessible rooms on the ground floor. You’ll find them online and in the typical booking engines.

      If you would consider staying in the surrounding countryside, check out Dar Kenavo. The owner is in a wheelchair and has adopted the place (including the pool) accordingly. It’s about 30-40 mins by car to Essaouira medina.

      Happy planning!

  10. Giora


    After reading your article bout the berber origin jews, i have a quick question and wonder if you can comment on that.

    You mentioned Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in the late 15th century and finding shelter in the Atlas mountains. Specifically I am intrested in the Marakesh area – there is a tribe in the higher atlas called Ghigia or Ghigya. Do you know the history of this tribe?
    thanks alot!

  11. Anna

    Hi Lynn, do you know anyone in Essaouira who could give a group of eight people (plus a baby) a walking tour on the afternoon of Monday August 22nd? We arrive the afternoon before and are planning our first surf session that morning but it would be great to get our bearings with someone that could show us the around (and whet our appetite for the week ahead).


    Anna and co.

    1. lynn Post author

      Hi Anna, I am just asking around and I will get back to you by e-mail. In the meantime, download my e-book for a great overview of the city!

  12. Beccy

    Hi Lynn,
    What a great website! My boyfriend and I are coming to Essaouira on November 12th for several nights and as we are both musicians we would love to hear some traditional Gnauoa music but also contemporary Moroccan music also. Have you any recommendations for where best to go for music?
    Thanks so much in advance!

    1. lynn Post author

      Hi Beccy,
      there is live music every night at Taros (on the main square) and Mega Loft (at the medina skala, at the end of Rue Laalouj), generally contemporary Moroccan and/or covers. Another good place for modern music is Restaurant Sirocco. For Gnaoua music, ask around once you are there and see if there is anything on at Dar Souiri (community centre near Bab Sbaa) or at a zawiya (the lodge of one of the Sufi brotherhoods). Some restaurants advertise gnaoua musicians in the evening – check along the street which runs from the square to the Mellah (it’s called Rue Sidi Mohammed Ban Abdullah, but the locals call it Mellah Qdim) or at the music shops along and off that street.
      Have a great time!

  13. Melanie

    Hello. Reading your site with interest. Thankyou Lynn. How do you get the time to do so much and fit all in? Just wondering whether there is an update planned for your e-book? Interested in buying your book but ideally would like the most up to date version. Presently looking into Essaouria as a peaceful
    place visit for a couple of months, to recharge, eat local healthy food, swim, walk, write, dance, visit the hamman and potter at my own pace. Finding ‘a modest room of my own’ that was peaceful and local would be my first step. Best wishes to you and your family.

    1. lynn Post author

      Hi Melanie,
      thanks for your message. The short answer is, I don’t! Something’s gotta give between my family, Masters, work and travel and so I didn’t manage to update the e-book in 2017. Much of it is still up to date, but several businesses (mainly restaurants) have closed down or changed hands. The book isn’t expensive, so I hope that if you did buy it, you’d still find it useful, and 20% of the sales price goes to a local children’s charity. If you are planning to live in Essaouira for a while, try the Essaouira Expats and Friends Facebook group for local tips and contacts: https://www.facebook.com/groups/552493944818838
      Enjoy your trip!


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