Ouassane, around 20km south of Essaouira, is my favourite place in the Essaouira region. It is visible from Essaouira and the surroundings due to the forest of wind turbines which dominate the village. Although I love to catch a glimpse of the turbines from the distance and I enjoy walking into the village under the graceful towers, it is not the Amogdoul wind farm which is the primary attraction here. If you are a surfer, you are drawn by the trade winds (hence the turbines). For me, however, quite simply, the view from Ouassane is the most spectacular along this stretch of the Moroccan Atlantic coast.
Seen from the village above, the scenery of deserted sandy beaches and tiny fishing hamlets at the end of swathes of easily-navigated scrubby dunes is breathtaking. On a typical day, the wind will take everything which isn’t fastened down.
This stretch of coast is reasonably easily navigated along the beach and low cliffs. If you have time and know the tides, it is possible to walk from Essaouira to Sidi Kaouki via Ouassane and the Cap Sim peninsula. On a calm day, a really pleasant afternoon’s walk starts in Ouassane just before lunch and ends with a beautiful sunset in Taguenza or Kaouki.
Ouassane is a Berber village settled by people who came originally to the coast to fish. Through a process of formal settlement, these formerly nomadic families are slowly acquiring legal possession of prime coastal real estate. Meanwhile, they continue fishing for sardines and agar-agar, seemingly ignorant of the potential value of their land.
However you get there (see below), walk right through the village and out onto the Cap Sim peninsula (the lighthouse isn’t open to visitors). After a fair trek, you can drop down to ‘La Grotte’ – a huge cave which provides shelter for all number of hippies and back-packers in the summer and which has given its name to a local surf spot. When we visited La Grotte, it was like a scene from the film ‘The Beach’: a pretty much self-sufficient community of travellers appeared to have settled there. I suspect it’s a much less popular spot in winter…. In calm weather it’s easy to swim in front of the cave and there are plenty of flat rocks to dry bodies and towels on.
The route southwards towards Sidi Kaouki can be navigated by walking, trekking, scrambling and – potentially – a little swimming. So don’t come laden down! There are a few lovely spots where you can lean against a tree and enjoy a picnic gazing out to sea. You might even come across a herd of goats or a wild tortoise. Eventually, once you are level with Ouassane again, this time at sea level, the final part is an easy walk along a sandy beach.
The cafe at Taguenza, a kind of boho-shack affair serving beers and wines accompanied by fresh seafood (eg. sea urchins, oysters) that would cost a fortune in swanky restaurants, is a perfect place for a refreshment stop and an end of afternoon swim (mind the rocks). It’s also a haven for waifs and strays of the 4-legged variety and there is generally a litter of kittens or puppies waddling around. Head on towards Sidi Kaouki (you’ll see the domed mausoleum of the revered saint in the near distance) to catch the sunset. Once it gets going, the sun sinks into the Atlantic incredibly quickly and you don’t want to be stumbling around on the beach in the dark!
Getting to Ouassane: The village is reached via a slip road off the Sidi Kaouki access road (off the main Essaouira-Agadir road). It is signposted with a large billboard about the wind farm. A grand taxi will drop you off at the junction or may take you into Ouassane on request. Lima buses leave Bab Doukkala in Essaouira reasonably regularly for Sidi Kaouki. They serve Ouassane once in the morning and once in the evening.
Returning to Essaouira: If you time it right, you can catch a public bus or minibus from Sidi Kaouki back to Essaouira. Otherwise, there is generally a grand taxi somewhere nearby looking for its full complement of 5 passengers in order to set off.