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Essaouira

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Travel Guide Africa Morocco Essaouira

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Introduction

Essouira

Essouira

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Essaouira along the central western coast of Morocco is a laid-back and peaceful place (no traffic within the huge walled area), lots of cafes in squares to lounge around and drink mint tea and just soak up the atmosphere. You can walk everywhere in Essaouira as it is relatively small. Essaouira is the perfect place to unwind at the end of a Moroccan tour. The beach is clean with gorgeous soft sand and pretty much hassle free. At times, the beach can be very windy and ideal for windsurfing, and at other less windy times it is ideal for relaxing on a sunlounger, although, as with all weather you have to take your chances. Essaouira retains its old fashioned traditional charm, unlike more aesthetic built up resorts like Agadir and there is not a jet ski in sight! The coastal town is famous for the GNAOUA World Music Festival which takes place every year around the 20th of June for 4-5 days (see below).

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Neighbourhoods

Most of the activity in Essaouira is normally limited in the area within the sandstone walled area of the medina and especially at the time of the GNAOUA festival. The medina consists of a number of alleys and Babs (doors/gates). Bab Zerktouni is famous for the two restaurants - one that serves pizzas and the other very good breakfasts. Different babs serve different functions: there are places which are reserved for restaurants and others where they sell souvenirs and traditional wares etc.

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Sights and Activities

  • Essaouira is a great place for just wandering around, browsing in the souks or lounging around in cafe's. There is also an artists quarter where local artists and ex-pats display their works and might be a welcome relief from all the Thuya woodcarving shops! The old medina of Essaouira is on the Unesco World Heritage List.
  • No stay in Essaouira is complete without having a fish dinner at one of the basic, but busy, make-shift stalls (with seating) near the fish market on the seafront. The delicious, freshest fish and seafood will be served up to you with salad by friendly waiters and is not expensive. This can be followed by delicious Italian ice-cream from the shop in the nearby square, Place Moulay Hassan. Delicious!
  • Climb up to the top of the old rampart walls along the seafront for a fantastic view of the beautiful sunsets above the rocky coastline.
  • You could stroll down the beach for about 1 kilometre and when you reach the dunes, look back at the view of Essaouira which inspired Jimmy Hendrix "Castles In The Sand". Then head inland to the village of Diabat and you'll stumble across a shack-type cafe which is an entire homage to the man himself, with his music playing (and if not, the owner will dig out a dusty old cassette tape) and photos on the wall. Do play along with the owners stories of how Jimmy hung out in the next room strumming his guitar, it is all true, except for the fact that the original building was in an entirely different part of the village and no longer stands!

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Events and Festivals

  • Printemps Musical des Alizés - A yearly Classical Music Festival that allways attracks world acclaimed performers that takes place every year 3rd week of April.
  • [listing name=Festival des Andalousies Atlantiques type=event address=Association Essaouira Mogador Dar Souiri, 10 rue du Caire – Essaouira phone=00212 524 475 268]Andalousian and Fusion music Festival that takes place every year early December. Created in 2003 by the Essaouira Mogador Association, the festival is part of the dynamics of national and international meetings born around the two other festivals, Gnaoua and World Music and Printemps Musical des Alizés. It enriches the cultural and musical identity of the city. It is the result of a partnership between the Foundation and the trade winds of the Autonomous Government of Andalusia through the Three Cultures Foundation of the Mediterranean (Seville) and Leguado Andalus. It highlights the history of the Andalusian heritage left his Spanish-Moroccan cradle and carried by the conquistadors to Latin America, across the Atlantic. Address: Association Essaouira Mogador Dar Souiri, 10 rue du Caire – Essaouira, Phone: 00212 524 475 268
  • The GNAOUA festival comprises a number of individual concerts and other events, starting from noon untill late at night. At this time, small riads and apartments get booked up and locals even rent out their apartments for the duration. This can be a good option but if anything goes wrong, you can’t count on the police since the place you are staying is not registered. The best events tend to be at night, at the entrance of the Bab e medina. This is the place where the best atmosphere can be seen from 11:00pm onwards until 2:00am. The atmosphere in the concerts is amazing with lots of people on a high! The Moroccans love to dance and their movements would put any ballerina to shame. A lot of the performers are French and Moroccan rap artists. Though a word of caution: when going out at night it's best to leave your valuables in your hotel, because of groups of pick pockets in the packed crowds.
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    Weather

    The weather is generally mild compared to the rest of the country. In fact, the town is known for having the smallest difference between both summer and winter temperatures as well as day and night temperatures. Days range from 18 °C in January and February to 22 °C from August to October. Nights are between 12 °C and 17 °C. It is generally nice all year round but sometimes windy. It's usually not very humid though and conditions are fairly fine year round. The average annual amount of precipitation is about 340 mm with most of that falling from November till April.

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    Getting There

    By Plane

    The nearest airports are Essaouira, Marrakech and Agadir:

    Some domestic services exist as well, for example to and from Casablanca. Regional Air Lines has many domestic services.

    By Car

    Essaouira is a 2.5 hour drive from Marrakech or a 3.5 hour drive from Agadir on good tarred roads.

    By Bus

    Supratours and CTM buses run regularly Marrakech - Essaouira (leaving approximately 8:30am, 10:45am, 2:45pm and 6:30pm). Buses also run between Agadir and some other cities.

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    Getting Around

    By Car

    Taxi's leave from the bus station or the area just outside the walls of Place Moulay Hassan. These can be handy for a trip to Diabat if you'd prefer to go by road rather than along the beach.

    By Public Transport

    You can walk around the town in about half an hour. The bus station is an easy stroll about 15 minutes inland, towards the back of the town.

    By Foot

    The medina is just a 15-minute walk from the main bus station so there is no need to take a taxi, even though you may be persuaded by eager locals that you need to. You can however take advantage of the helpful men with huge wheelbarrows who will happily wheel your luggage to your riad or guesthouse for a few dirhams and this can be a welcome relief in the heat.

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    Sleep

    There are lots of budget guesthouses or mid-range traditional riads as well as 4-5 star ones like Sofitel on the seafront. Finding accommodation should not be a problem outside of the festival period. There is a campsite about 25 kilometres down the coast, handy if you have a car.

    Upscale

    View our map of accommodation in Essaouira or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

    Booking.com

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    Keep Connected

    Internet

    There are plenty of Cybercafes in cities and small towns and accessing the Internet won't be a problem. The price is around 4 to 10DH/ hour. If you have a laptop while traveling then you can buy a USB key for wireless connection from one of the 3 main telecommunication companies (Maroc Telecom, Meditel, and Inwi). Credits are available starting from 10DH/24 hours (starting from the time you use it, if you start at 2:00am then next day at 2:00am you will have to recharge it again). Wifi is getting more and more common in places like hotels, shopping malls and in restaurants and coffee places in larger cities. The wireless connection in some areas might be slow, that depends on the signal as not the whole of Morocco has 3G coverage.

    Phone

    See also: International Telephone Calls

    Morocco's country code is +212, International Call Prefix is 00. The telephone numbering scheme is changed starting March 2009. All fixed telephone numbers have a 5 inserted after the 0, and all mobile telephone numbers have a 6 or a 7 inserted after the 0. All numbers are now ten-digit long, counting the initial 0. Useful numbers are Police: 19; Fire Service: 15; Highway Emergency Service: 177; Information: 160.

    Public telephones can be found in city centres, but private telephone offices (also known as teleboutiques or telekiosques) are also commonly used.
    The GSM mobile telephone network in Morocco can be accessed via one of two major operators: Meditel or Maroc Telecom. Prepaid cards are available. It is very easy and cheap to buy a local GSM prepaid card in one of the numberous phone shops showing a Maroc Telecom sign.

    Post

    Post Maroc is the national postal service of Morocco and has details on their website (French) regarding the sending of letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically and internationally. The postal service in Morocco is very efficient and the post offices are generally open Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to 12 noon and 2:30pm to 6:30pm. On Saturdays it is open from 8:30am to 2:00pm. Some might keep longer hours though, especially in larger tourist cities and central areas. You can post your mail at one of the post offices or otherwise in the yellow post boxes you'll find throughout the country. For packages, you can also use international courier companies like TNT, DHL or UPS. They offer quick, reliable services and competitive rates.

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    Accommodation in Essaouira

    We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Essaouira searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Essaouira and areas nearby.

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