I have been spending some time over winter in the UK, but this weekend, I head back to Essaouira for a few weeks. I hope to hand over a tidy sum of donations which I have collected through my crowdfunding campaign for Association Bayti, as well as check out some favourite old haunts and some exciting new openings in the city.
In anticipation of an influx of British visitors with the start of new direct flights from London to Essaouira on 1 May, I thought I would round up what’s hot in Essaouira for summer 2015!
1. Digital Arabesques by Miguel Chevalier
Essaouira’s Institut Français officially opened (replacing the previous Alliance Franco-Marocaine d’Essaouira) in October 2014. And what a better way to celebrate the new functions of this excellent example of a Mogador merchant’s house (and the former French Consulate) than with this exciting and fabulous digital exhibition? Chevalier’s work has toured Morocco and delighted audiences as it mixes traditional Moroccan Islamic geometric patterns and mosaic designs with modern, interactive digital techniques. It’s only on until Sunday 3 May, so get there quick!
2. Swiri Street Art
While we are on the subject of all things artistic, there is some serious revitalisation of Essaouira’s street art scene going in preparation for the Gnaoua Festival later this month (14-17 May 2015). Essaouira is a city of artists, but until now, street art has not had the exposure it enjoys in, for example Casablanca or Assilah. Watch the maroc-o-phile Facebook page and twitter feed for photos of the new works!
3. Mega Loft
Still not too far from the work of artists and artisans, and just down Derb Laalouj from the French Institute, the hippest hipster in town, Othman, has recently opened Mega Loft just around the corner from his boutique. Loft was one of last year’s celebrated new openings, but Othman and his business partner have now parted company. The new premises are larger and offer the opportunity for Othman to fulfil his dream of a multi-functional gallery, food, event and art space. There is also an outdoor terrace, in a sunny spot sheltered from the wind by the Skala walls. I predict big things for Othmane and co!
4. Dolcefreddo in Borj
Dolcefreddo (a.k.a. the Italian Cafe) is an Essaouira institution on Place Moulay Hassan. Serving by the far the best ice cream in town, their coffee is pretty great too. Now, they have satisfied a long-held demand of mine for ice cream in the new town by opening a second shop near the new CTM bus depot. Not satisfied with filling that personal craving of mine, they are also offering homemade cakes, tarts and savoury snacks. Watch out for ice cream pics on my Instagram account, soon!
5. Khadija’s Kuzina
I have known Morocco – and its national dish of couscous – for almost 15 years. And although I can knock out a top tajine, a hot harira or a mean maq’uda, I have never dared tread on the toes of a dozen million housewives and even attempt couscous. With Khadija, this is all about the change! This new business, established by the host mother of several of Essaouira’s dedicated Peace Corps volunteers, has found fans from far and wide. Want to replicate Emma’s lamb tajine and homemade couscous recipe from the 2015 Masterchef UK final? Get in touch with Khadija!
Popular rooftop bar and restaurant, Taros, is under new management. Same great service and atmosphere, plus it is now open for breakfast. In case you yearn some home comforts, French chain Carrefour opened a supermarket on the edge of town (near the Afriqia and Total petrol stations) in December 2014, which includes an off-licence. And finally, there are rumours of a broader offer of Asian cuisine around town… Apparently the new chef at the Grill restaurant at Riad Zahra in the Quartier des Dunes has experience of Chinese and Asian flavours. That is a treat not to be missed!
Watch the blog and the maroc-o-phile social media channels for up-to-the minute information on the new openings in Essaouira. If you are visiting Essaouira, get the local’s lowdown in my e-guide, The Best of Essaouira, available to download now!