Essaouira – an unwinding stay in a charming and fresh moroccan port city

I have to admit – when we first planned a trip to Morocco, I had never heard of Essaouira. Situated on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast, it was lined with white and blue painted walls and riads with old wooden front doors. It was full of fresh produce, friendliness, music and gentle sunshine. The list goes on – and we really enjoyed Essaouira for its dazzlingly colourful medina, laid back atmosphere and fresh air.

   

   

Getting to Essaouira was fairly straightforward. There was a coach service run by Supratours which took 2hrs and cost 75Dh. It also had a nearby airport where flights to London Luton were £20 one way.

The town had a chilled vibe and  walking the Medina was a hassle-free joy. Towards the port side there were bounties of freshly caught fish, buskers perched by the sea walls and fishermen tending to their wooden blue boats. The smell of charcoaled fish led us to the numerous stalls offering to grill the fishermen’s catch as a fresh, tasty lunch. We enjoyed this so much we went there twice!

   

Towards the bottom half of the medina were rows of colourful bowls and tagine pots seen on display. Various shops offered all sorts of leather bags and shoes – and in others “Grandma hand-woven carpets” – many of which had a story to tell. Whether or not it was their Grandma’s I don’t know, but some sure looked impressive!

   

Towards the top half of the medina was filled with mountains of olives, fresh herbs, fruit and veg. We were told that many locals did not own a fridge and went to the markets daily and who needs to when it was all freshly picked! (The oranges were exceptionally sweet and juicy).

Olives!

A cooking school, L’Atelier Madada, offered half day classes in a small group. Here we could choose which dishes we’d like to learn and managed to turn our amateur skills into something worthy in a restaurant (the taste was definitely better than places we had been to).

   

   

The course also included a spice tour of an extremely knowledge-able herbalist’s stall, which gave a fascinating insight into the origins and correct uses of spices and natural sources in Moroccan life. It helped us know which spices were poor quality or counterfeit and made us realise how much of what we use today now comes from unnatural sources! e.g:

  • Lipstick was, and still is here, made from poppy flower seeds
  • Purple dye from snail gland mucus (which would help explain why historically it was worn only by the wealthy!)

Some other interesting points included:

  • Cassia cinnamon, which is cheaper and far more common than the Ceylon variety is actually toxic in high doses.

Cumin was used to help digest food that may be off and hence its presence on certain dinner tables!

   
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Some of the spices use in cooking and visit to the spice shop)

   (Seasoning for the seafood pastilla – kind of like a fish pie and … the final product)

Zaalouk – spiced aubergine and tomato

In the evening, we treated ourselves to a massage at Azur Art and Spa. Combined with a mint tea at the end, we found this a very relaxing break. Massages were from 350Dh for 1h.

To top off a day, we enjoyed watching the sun set by the beach with a view of the medina and by Taros cafe as the sun set beyond the Atlantic ocean. We thoroughly enjoyed our short stay in Essaouira and we left with very fond memories.