Top 5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Trip in Essaouira, Morocco

When traveling to Morocco, Essaouira, a port city in the Atlantic coast, is a must-visit. There are many day trips from Marrakech to Essaouira, however, don't be fooled by what you see online that it only takes 2.5 hours to drive to this seaside town. Due to the pandemic, there are now many police check points (that I lost count of), making the drive longer than it used to be. 

Essaouira is a small town that can be explored on foot, so take your time to enjoy the cooler weather for the summer and eat fresh seafood from its port. Get the most out of your trip in Essaouira with these 5 top tips:  
Villa Garance rooftop
Working at Villa Garance's rooftop. Wifi passed for a team zoom meeting!

1. Stay 1 night or more in Essaouira: When picking a riad to stay in the medina, it is important to know that cars cannot go inside the medina. I am very fortunate that Villa Garance opened their doors for me despite not having many guests during the off-shoulder season and even had their receptionist pick me up at the parking spot to accompany me with my luggage in tow to the medina's labyrinth. Although steps were narrow and steep to get to my rooftop room, I thoroughly enjoyed waking up in my 2-night stay with the sound of the seagulls and the sea waves. 

Villa Garance room
My room at Villa Garance's rooftop designed with hues of gray and white. My bathroom (not in pic) had the iconic copper faucet basin.
Villa Garance
Villa Garance's architecture elegantly blends Judeo-Arabic and Berber influences.
Villa Garance rooftop
Villa Garance's rooftop is also filled with sunbeds and a view of the medina. Some cats come for a visit, too.
In this unassuming Villa decked in light gray tones with a splash of red, the Villa has an interesting history to offer its guests. As a former rabbinical residence built at the end of the 19th century, it has now been restored with its old tiles and tadelakt -- a waterproof plaster surface used in Moroccan architecture. Built in 1902 by a Rabbi, the villa was once residence to 3 Jewish families. The Rabbi was a glassmaker and lived with 2 other families on the 3 levels of the house. It was once a place of work and prayer open to the Jewish community of Essaouira.

Waking up for breakfast is a breeze, especially in my rooftop room. The day always starts with a fresh cup of orange juice, coffee/mint tea, and eggs. With a selection of jams and caramel, I always had a hard time deciding which Moroccan bread to devour first:
  • Krachel (not shown in picture): similar to a brioche bun topped with sesame seeds
  • Khobz: Morocco's basic bread that is also usually served with tajines.
  • Harsha: Panfried bread made with semolina.
  • Msemen: Moroccan flatbread that looks like an Indian paratha.
Moroccan breads
A great introduction to Moroccan breads: Harsha (middle left); Msemen (rightmost)
2. Get lost in the medina: Its medina is protected by an 18th-century seafront ramparts called the Skala de la Kasbah, where you can find old brass cannons on the walls amidst the ocean views. Exploring Essaouira's medina or old city during off-shoulder season ensures that there is less people hustling you to buy their wares. However since I stood out like a sore thumb being the only Asian tourist in town (there were no flights from Asia allowed to land in Morocco yet at the time of my travel at the end of June), many locals were dismally confused where I was from, which became amusing rather than annoying when they were trying to get my attention. 
One of the medina's alley ways selling a magic carpet ride :)
3. Take a stroll at the beach: Due to its location, the "Alizée" trade winds make the city's crescent beach popular for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. Besides from local kids frolicking in the wavy waters, I didn't see anyone surfing during my stroll. However, I did meet the many camels and horses ready to strut the coastline on fine beach sand.
Essaouira beach
Stroll at Essaouira beach or hop on a camel.
4. Visit the port and eat seafood: At Essaouira's port, walk carefully in a busy seafood, wet market lined with old castled walls as a backdrop. Stop to gawk on some seagulls and take a photo of the popular Moroccan blue boats docked at the port.  
blue fishing boats Essaouira
Would you go fishing in this iconic blue fishing boat?
fresh seafood
Very tempting to buy fresh seafood, but there was no one to cook it for me :(
I came here early in the morning and was almost hit by a busy fisherman hastily biking his way to the edge of the port. There were also no vendors offering to cook the fresh catch yet, so I wandered back to the medina to the artistic (read: very Instagrammable) boutique hotel, Salut Maroc, for lunch at their rooftop.
seafood pastilla
Found myself at Salut Maroc for seafood bastilla (crispy pastry stuffed with shrimps, sardines, squid and Chinese vermicelli) for lunch.
Salut Maroc
Must stop at Salut Maroc's Instagrammable toilet!
5. Visit the goats on a tree 
As I headed back to Marrakech, my driver, Youssef, from Morocco Tours Agency, found the iconic goats, which in the entire country can be only be seen a few minutes outside of Essaouira, up on a tree. Owned by nomadic families, I'm not certain if these goats climbed up the tree by themselves or were placed strategically on the branches as a tourist attraction -- both of which my guide neither denied nor confirmed. Nonetheless, these agile animals reminded me of the lovable, hanging lions in Uganda
Goats on a tree
These goats are owned by nomadic families.
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Note: In collaboration with Villa Garance (merci, Marie!) and Morocco Tours Agency. If you decide to book with any of them, tell them I sent you!

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