Essaouira (Berber: as-Ṣawīrameans ‘The Wall’

The name Essaouira is a reference to the fortress walls. These originally enclosed the city which is perched on the tip of North Africa’s Atlantic coast. In the 16th-century, it became known to the Portuguese as Mogador or Mogadore. Hence the old name can still be seen  gothically inscribed over some doorways in the Medina.

We arrive as sunset washes the city amber. A strange concert of seagull cries and the call of the Imams’ fills the sky. In contrast to the laid back sleepiness of the day, the streets are now teeming with local people. The food stalls and pavement vendors, spill out their mats of inner tubes and rabbits’ feet. As well as trolleys brimming with fish, buckets full of herbs and spices. In this frenzied market place, almost anything possible and impossible is for sale. Finally as the bustling and frenetic bargaining reaches a crescendo, the nights curtain falls dramatically. The day retreats and soberly drains the streets of the markets din as well as the women and children .

Medieval

The recurring ‘medieval’ feeling creeps back. I watch the colour that is indelibly printed into the fabric of this city; of the sky and the ocean, shift into shadows of the night. Hooded figures dart almost spirit like in and out of alleys. Meanwhile our sense of security is buoyed by the evenings aroma of spiced meat and vegetables. For hidden behind these ancient walls are the most surprising culinary discoveries in stylish restaurants and uber modern Riyadh’s. 

Elizir Restaurant, Rue de Agadir

(Sadly, No Longer) was owned by Abdellatif Gharbaoui, and our favourite. It was discreetly tucked up an alley and 2 flights of stairs. Only those with a subscription to Conde Nast Traveller could find it. Due to it being listed as one of the best recommended places to eat in Essaouira. On the menu – organic chicken with fresh figs, and lemon sorbet with vodka. Up for discussion – the artisanal skills and local cooperative products found here and all over Morocco. Most note worthy being Argan oil. Another, which has gained international recognition, Berber weaving. Specifically, textiles and rugs. Berber women pass down weaving techniques from generation to generation. We were delighted to discover more and more unusual application. Woven raffia lace up shoes, that fit like a glove and feel like a pair of socks. Available to order; from our souvenir shop.

“Morocco, the country that travels within you”

The country’s official tourist slogan is “Morocco, the country that travels within you”.  The romantic notion of finding  undiscovered treasure is the pervading feeling. Because, whether it’s rifling through the souks of Essaouira or tackling the rocky terrain of an Argan forest. Discovering that rare find, is certainly an experience that stays with you. We discovered ‘La Mouette Et Les Dromedaries‘ Patricia Finel’s restaurant on our 3rd trip. It wasn’t easy to find. It sits unassuming along the stretch of wind swept beach. A short distance from the small village of Sidi Kaouki. Consequently its both wild and tranquil. French and Moroccan. Certainly a very special place to watch the sunset after lunching on grilled seafood and French wine. Its a 30 minute drive or a longer camel ride south from Essaouira towards Agadir.  So with Morocco predicted to be an increasingly popular holiday destination, maybe some secrets are best kept within you.