Although it has been the set for plenty of films, and unlike its larger and more celebrity neighbour, Marrakech, to my knowledge there are not many works of non-fiction set in Essaouira. I was intrigued, therefore, to read Douglas Kennedy’s latest work, The Heat of Betrayal. This is my Essaouira book review. Continue reading
While it is easier for those who eat meat or fish to find interesting and nourishing food in Essaouira, it is not impossible to find vegan food in the city, although you will meet people who don’t quite understand the concept. Morocco is a country abundant in fresh vegetables and no stranger to pulses. With a little preparation and forward planning, you will survive and might even have a couple of truly excellent meals!
I compiled this list of vegan restaurants in Essaouira and other vegan options for finding vegan food.
Read my post for Travel Exploration about meat-free travel in Morocco for ideas.
If you’d like to cook vegan Moroccan food at home, check out my recipe for chickpea tajine.
Essaouira, 15 May 2015 – Yesterday, Essaouira‘s annual Gnaoua World Music Festival got off to a colourful start with the opening parade and concert featuring local and national gnaoua groups and international World Music artists.
This is the 18th edition of the event, which is the largest in the festival calendar of this small port town on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast. Other annual festivals include the Festival des Alizés, a celebration of international classical and traditional music held every Spring, and the Festival des Andalousies Atlantiques, a festival celebrating the Judeo-Muslim musical traditions of Al Andalous, which are also a frequent feature of Fes festivals such as the Sacred Music Festival, which begins next week in Fes on 22 May 2015.
Each year, the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival gets underway with a parade through the centre of the Essaouira medina of all the gnaoua groups in their finest regalia, embroidered costumes and caps studded with cowrie shells. The bands are often accompanied by standard-bearers carrying huge flags and feature the typical gnaoua instruments: the krakeb castanets, the stringed gimbri and the tbel drum, which is played with a crooked stick.
Every so often, the groups pause to demonstrate the fervent whirling and acrobatics which simulate the trance induced by the heavy beats of the instruments. In the street, though, in this carnival atmosphere, these movements are more for show than religious practice and the circles the gnaoua form resemble an elaborately coloured dance-off between rival acrobatic troupes.
Gnaoua music originated in sub-Saharan Africa. With the trade in goods and men across the great desert, African slaves brought their traditions and their experience of hardship and exile into Morocco. Over time, their traditions were absorbed into Islam and Gnaoua brotherhoods of adherents gathered around a maâlem (master) developed in zawiyas (centres devoted to religious learning). The Gnaoua tradition is strong in Essaouira, with its previous role as a major trading port and its centuries’ old connections to Timbuktu and other West African cities.
Swiris -the natives of Essaouira – are particularly proud of their home-grown masters, such as Maâlem Mahmoud Guinéa and his brother Maâlem Mokhtar Guinéa, Maâlem Allal Soudani and others. However, they are also welcoming of the big names of Gnaoua music from other cities, such as Maâlem Hamid el Kasri, who opened the festival this year alongside Humayun Khan of Afghanistan. When a great maâlem is on stage, throughout the audience, one hears young and old singing along, responding to the chant of the master, and clapping out the frenetic polyphonic beat.
The Gnaoua Festival is also a stage for some of the best Moroccan and international stars of the World Music scene. The most exciting concerts are those on the main stage (on Place Moulay Hassan) late at night. The fusion concerts bring together a gnaoua group with artists from a completely different genre for a unique kind of mash-up unlike any other. Gnaoua jazz? Sufi-Voodoo fusion? Gnaoua-folk? Everything is possible under the starry skies and the gusting trade winds of Essaouira!
This article originally appeared on the blog, The View From Fez.
The Essaouira medina is small and compact, and few hotels (apart from the prestigious L’Heure Bleue Palais) have the space for a pool. Some larger hotels outside the medina have pools, but often lack much of the charm of the riad guesthouses of the medina. Get the best of both worlds by staying in a medina riad and taking a day trip out for lunch to one of the poolside restaurants outside the city. The bonus is that being set back a little from the coast, these locations are also warmer and less windy – perfect for topping up your tan! There are many to choose from, but here are my top three. Continue reading
The Essaouira Gnaoua Festival 2015 started yesterday, 14 May with a colourful carnival parade of the gnaoua artists through the main street of the Essaouira medina.
The festival continues now until Sunday 17 May with concerts, exhibitions, open air shows and intimate gigs all over the city, much of it for free.
The cuisine of Morocco is becoming increasingly well-known abroad and a popular holiday activity is a cookery class where students can learn about the intricate blends of spices, the diverse influences on Moroccan cuisine and attempt to create their own culinary masterpieces. Over the past year, I have tried two cookery classes in Essaouira – one a well-established brand, the other a homely newcomer. I enjoyed both immensely, even though I could already make some key Moroccan dishes. If you want to do a cookery class in Essaouira, I recommend one of these two options. Continue reading
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! Continue reading
This year will see the 18th edition of the Essaouira Gnaoua World Music Festival.
The Essaouira Gnaoua Festival is the largest of Essaouira’s annual music festivals and attracts artists and an audience from around the world. In 2015, the Gnaoua Festival will take place earlier than usual from 14-17 May 2015 (to avoid a clash with Ramadan).
The format of the festival is large open-air stages in 3 locations across the city, plus intimate concerts in smaller venues and a side programme of discussions around related themes (for example, this year’s Forum is on African Women). The four-day musical extravaganza is opened by a carnival parade of colour featuring the Gnaoua and Sufi groups playing in their traditional costumes playing their instruments and dancing, plus über-dimensional puppets which tower above the crowds.
The Essaouira Gnaoua Festival programme features something for everyone. It’s hard to choose between the local gnaoua acts and the invited World Music stars, but here is my pick of the best of the 2015 line-up: Continue reading
Thinking of moving to Essaouira? Wondering what Morocco is like for your holiday or for a longer stay? If you would like to know more about expat life in Essaouira, check out my interview on expatfinder.com
It’s here! The wait is over! Finally, my e-guide to Essaouira, The Best of Essaouira is available online*. Available on a new and improved maroc-o-phile website, The Best of Essaouira helps you make the most of your stay in this boho chic seaside haven.
The Best of Essaouira gives you the lowdown – three choices in each category of the best places to eat, sleep, shop, watch the sunset and grab an elusive beer. Likewise, three ways to meet locals, to give back to the community and to get out into the countryside. And much more: The Best of Essaouira contains over 70 top tips in a concise, downloadable e-book. It takes no extra space in your luggage and it’s all you’ll need. All for an introductory bargain price for maroc-o-phile readers of only £2.99. A percentage of proceeds go to support kids’ education in Essaouira.
Find out more on the dedicated page – and let me know what you think – both of the website and the book.
* Kindle format coming soon! Keep an eye on the website for the announcement!