A rags to riches story is always an invigorating read, like the stories that bounce off the walls for this town in Morocco. Surrounded by coasts, Essaouira as a retreat is handsome enough to call it a day in, but is still dusty from all the mountains nearby.
You can wear your babouches (traditional Moroccan slippers) here with pride because the place couldn’t be further from renovating itself in a nouveau style, forgetting about the past completely. Essaouira is dependable and resolute, with it’s own unique sense of identity, that seems independent from the whole nation.
Marrakech is very busy at any time of the day, so this coastal harbour town is the perfect spot to quickly escape all of that from. Seagulls, the tides of the harbour pasting themselves on the sandy shores, with loudness, is a portrait that could be called a self-assuring Essaouira.
The salty ocean air is filled to the brim with scents of fish cooked in charmoula (a lemon blended mix of paprika, cumin, garlic and coriander) that grill on hot coals at nearby stalls, close to the harbourside. The blue-tailed fishing boats, matches the cobalt lining of the window sills, the shutters and the doorways, place themselves all around Medina’s thin lanes. Even the taxis are small, that dot the Bab Marrakech, one of the several gateways right into the Medina, and decorated in turquoise.
It is customary to have church bells ring out at noon, here, but this place is home to an interesting blend of nationalities. This tradition, interestingly, has built itself around since the days of Sultan Sidi Mohamed ben Abdallah, who built a fortress in the space in the mid 18th century. The town’s original name, Mogador, even means “small fort” because initially when the city was built, it had high ranging ambitions to turn the space into a tourist site.
Numerous consuls from across Europe came visiting over the years even, and Abdallah was successful in constructing Port of Timbuktu, Morocco’s commercial spot, to welcome more of it. The town has been home to such a diverse range of influences, it is difficult to comprehend that it can still maintain it’s traditional individuality.
For example, in the 1960s the country was home to hippie culture – astonishing! Essaouira, in the end, is still an old mystic town, rich in their own culture, dotted with Kasbah La Scala, a space filled with narrow alleys, souks from Medina, and a Jewish quarter, Mellah, that you would be well-advised to read up on before travelling there.