It was time to trade mountains for coast. We’d heard good things about Essaouira, but I was skeptical. For one, we would be getting our fill of beaches in Madeira, the Canaries, and the Caribbean later in the year. Secondly, it’s Morocco and I wanted to spend more time in the unique places the country is famed for, like the Sahara. Time and logistics didn’t allow for it though, and it was thus we found ourselves with three days in the seaside city. Even upon arrival I still wasn’t keen and was wondering how we would fill our time. It didn’t take long for me to change my tune, and for Essaouira to become one of our most memorable stops in Morocco. Here’s why:
Breaker of Chains
It seems, unintentionally, that we repeatedly find ourselves visiting Game of Thrones filming locations this year. This time it was Astapor, the place where Daenerys first meets her army of Unsullied. In real life however, it’s known as the Citadel, and is set along the coast beside the fishing harbor. For 1€ you can stroll along the ancient fortifications and pretend to be the Mother of Dragons. If you’re a GOT fan, like us, you’ll want to put this on your list. Dracarys!
Seafood And Eat It
Meander along the fishing harbor and smell the sweet scent of fresh seafood. Tarp tents with vendors selling octopus, urchins, prawns, and some unidentifiable fish line the walkway. Stop in at one selling raw oysters and knock a few back. They shuck them and add a squeeze of lime if you’d like, and the oysters themselves have a wonderful flavour. They have a well balanced saltiness and are just the right amount of meaty. If you’ve never had sea urchin, try one! In fact try everything they have to offer (oysters, urchins, limpits, whelks, and barnacles), it’s all delicious!
Stress Free Shopping
What a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the big cities! It’s the perfect place to buy your Moroccan souvenirs. The locals are friendly and no one is hassling you to buy something from their shop, which makes it a much more relaxed and comfortable place to browse about without feeling pressured. If you’re the type who hates shop owners clinging onto your arm and practically begging you to buy something you never really liked in the first place, then do your shopping here. It may not have as much selection as Marrakech or Fez, but that’s not always a bad thing.
Surfing with Dromadaires
Who goes to Morocco for the surf? Apparently, a lot of people, though mostly in the southern city of Agadir. However, a short trip by local bus (70 cents) or taxi (1.50€ per seat or 9€ for a private) from Essaouira is the beach town of Sidi Kaouki. The surf is small and perfect for beginners. There are a few places to rent boards for around 5€ per hour and cheaper if you rent for a half or whole day. Local men ride their horses up and down the sand beach, donkeys roam free, and camels hang out in the sand taking the occasional dip in the ocean. There’s something surreal about riding a wave in and passing by a camel cooling off in the water. I highly recommend spending a day here if you surf. And hey, there may be no more unique place to learn if you don’t.
Tree Climbing Goats
Those photos on Instagram and Facebook of goats precariously balanced on the outer edge of thin tree branches are photoshopped right? It seems an odd place to find a goat, but it’s absolutely real. Between Essaouira and Sidi Kaouki, somewhere near the roundabout that takes you to the airport, there are farmers with goats. It’s impossible to tell you exactly where because they’re always moving. As we took the local bus back from surfing, we kept an eye out for the goats along the roadside and when we spotted a herd, we had the bus stop and let us off in the middle of nowhere. The goats are really big fans of argan berries, and this area is famed for its argan trees. In their quest to reach the less accessible berries in the tops of the trees, they’ve learned to climb. It’s an incredible sight and a unique experience. This alone is worth the visit to Essaouira. I mean, GOATS IN TREES! Come on!
Have something else to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!