A wind of change on Morocco’s coast in Essaouira
13 Feb 2017
- Morocco’s cool cosmopolitan coastal town continues to innovate in its medina
- Surf worshippers make the most of the wonderful winds ideal for water sports
- Essaouira is Morocco’s artistic town with many galleries filled with local art
- Le Jardin des Douars, a terracotta paradise is Essaouira’s leading independent hotel
Essaouira is the perfect short haul sunshine destination. Located just over three hours from London, served by direct flights, the city combines a cool cosmopolitan vibe in its medina united with a laid-back beach and port atmosphere.
Essaouira is like nowhere else in Morocco. Visitors can combine a beach and cultural town break in one holiday and enjoy a very laid-back vibe that invites relaxation and some exploration. Over the last few years there has been a surge in cool new openings of local independent businesses around the medina including restaurants, shops and galleries.
The large working port by the medina, is picturesque and where restaurateurs go every day to get fresh fish. One of the most famous dishes in Essaouira is the Monkfish tagine. The outdoor fish grill stands are a lively option for lunch. Located at the port, the relaxed stands sit side-by-side and offer a truly unique dining experience with chefs attracting you and inviting you to sit as they display their magnificent selection of fresh fish. Visitors simply pick from a selection of freshly caught fish, this is then cooked on the grill and served with salad and bread. After lunch explore the medina, located next door.
The walled medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here visitors will discover the most laid-back medina in Morocco, compared to larger towns and cities. Fans of Othello the film, may recognise the labyrinth of streets. Combined with traditional craftsmen and women creating authentic Moroccan pieces on sale in many stalls and shops, guests will also experience many contemporary new restaurants, shops and galleries. A great place on Rue al Yeman is Mega Loft, popular for its night-time live music, this large restaurant is full of unique furniture items and local art. Essaouira’s medina is smaller than those in other Moroccan cities meaning guests can explore and shop without getting lost.
Art and Music
Throughout Essaouira visitors will witness artists at work and the medina is full of galleries with a vast selection of brightly coloured paintings for sale. Most of the artists are local and self-taught. The Galerie Damgaard, located at the gates of the medina, showcases Arab and Berbere cultures with a creative power of gesture, wide variety of themes and plenty of jubilant colour. The Gnaoua Festival takes place between 29th June and 2nd July 2017. This annual contemporary world music festival welcomes a diverse selection of artists for four days. The vibrant festival spills out across the town with street performances.
Essaouira’s sunshine and often windier climate make it an ideal destination to enjoy surfing, wind surfing and kite surfing. Expect waves of between one and three metres. The beach is also the place to ride a camel or simply relax. A great lunch spot on the beach is Ocean Vagabond who can also assist with surf lessons.
Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Essaouira’s beach is Golf de Mogador. Designed by Gary Player, the newly launched 18- and 13- hole courses have been beautifully integrated into the natural landscape. Open daily, the two courses are ideal for professionals and beginners.
Le Jardin des Douars
An independent hotel set in botanical gardens, Le Jardin des Douars is the perfect base to experience Moroccan hospitality, offering privacy and easy access to the beach, port and medina. Made up of a series of traditional terracotta Moroccan countryside buildings, Le Jardin des Douars offers a unique setting. There are just 28 bedrooms, suites and luxury villas; all with their own outdoor space, making it a truly relaxing retreat. The hotel’s three dining areas offer distinct experiences. Le Jardin des Douars has two outdoor heated pools overlooking stunning tropical planting and a hammam and spa open until 8pm daily, with treatments using traditional argan oil.
Lunch and dinner are open to all at Le Jardin des Douars and the cuisine is a mix of Moroccan, North African and Mediterranean flavours with both an a la carte and daily changing specials menu. Children’s menus are available. The stunning terrace is secluded and surrounded by botanical gardens.
2017 Discovery Address Book
Restaurant: La Table by Madada – Medina
Restaurant: Umia – Medina
Restaurant: La Mouette et les Dromadaires – Sidi Kaouki beach
Art Gallery: Gallerie l’Arbre Bleu
Art Gallery: L’Atelier des Arts Empreinte
Shopping: Histoire de Filles
The charm of Essaouira is that it is still relatively quiet and not taken over by tourism. Here visitors get to relax, enjoy warm weather, fresh food and beautiful, genuine hospitality, all in a laid-back vibe.
B&B priced from around £125 per room, per night or £395 per villa, per night
Travel Information: easyJet fly between London Luton and Essaouira twice per week on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Essaouira airport is located 15 minutes from Le Jardin des Douars and a shuttle service is available. Marrakech is about three hours from Essaouira by coach or less by car.