TRAVEL: From the High Atlas Mountains, our journey continued in Morocco last November as my husband and I travelled to Essaouira a small coastal fishing town on the Atlantic coast. The drive was entertaining, the highlight, of course, a gathering of goats perched in Argan trees. Ruminating for hours, these acrobatic goats are mostly situated for the enjoyment of passing tourists, although this is a fruitful life skill the goats have developed to nibble on their favourite Argan nuts.
Just under a three-hour drive from the mountains to the coast, we checked in at the Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa, for a two-night stay. Essaouira is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its mid-16th-century architecture, a fortified seaport with the town tucked away in the medina walls. This photo below has a great view, taken from the fortress, with the port below yet overlooking the medina.
For our first evening we dined at La clé de voûte, a charming Moroccan French restaurant tucked away in the heart of the medina down a narrow cobbled pedestrian path. Seasoned in traditional spices, I devoured a fish tagine complemented with full-bodied Moroccan red wine, a refreshing change from anything Californian. For the entire trip, we only sipped wine from the local region, which is a fast way to make friends with your waiter!
The next morning, for our one full day in this bohemian-style fishing town, we walked the length of the port, witnessing the mayhem of trade and barter from the morning fishing excursions. Seagulls flocked and swirled above our heads, and swooped down intermittently, as tradesmen shouted out promoting their recent catch of fresh urchins, crabs, lobsters and fish, all glistening in a stench that made your head snap to attention.
With our guide leading the way, we visited the Fortress of Mogador (Essaouira’s former name), built by the King of Portugal in the early 16th-century (if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, then this location is a must-visit, the fortress was filmed during the scene of Daenerys emancipating The Unsullied).
After much walking, we visited the main square in Essaouira called Place Moulay Hassan. Here we rested for lunch, climbing again to a casual rooftop setting at Taros restaurant, with a spectacular view across the Atlantic ocean.
Après le déjeuner we meandered through the entrance of the city walls into the medina, mostly a pedestrian area, decorated with sassy street cats with the high-pitched noise of scooters whizzing past amid hustling locals and idle tourists, all shopping for essential and meaningful commodities.
Mesmerised by the vivid blue hues that adorned centuries-old architecture, we strolled through the cobbled streets for a couple of hours. Breathing in the scent of exotic spices sold streetside, we admired artisans and craftsmen busy working on their trade from gifts and home goods in leather, brass, rugs, and wood.
The trip to Essaouira was mentally cleansing and relaxing, in a sense it was the palate cleanser before the vibrancy and exuberance that Marrakech would reveal. I like the format of our final itinerary, whetting our experience of south Morocco with two quiet locations, and we ended our trip with a full explosion of the senses.