The walled city of Essaouira dates back to the ancient Phoenicians (1500 BC – 300 BC). It later became a Portuguese fortress in 1506. In 1765, the city became known as Mogador, turning into a commercial port at the request of Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah.
For many years, Mogador was the only port in Morocco open to foreign trade. The Sultan had the Medina designed by French architect Theodore Cornut. The name ‘Essaouira’ came from that plan; the name means “the well designed”
Stroll the Streets
Stroll through narrow streets next to the fortress where art is displayed on the ancient walls which lead you to large squares where people are selling oranges and street crepes.
I hope you are not allergic to cats as there are at least 7 lounging on every street. Cats are treated in very high regard in Moroccan society, similarly to ancient Egypt.
This is where you go to eat fresh fish straight the sea. If you go on a tour, it should include the fish market. Strolling through the market, you see the day’s fresh catches, featuring everything from sea urchins and eel to sole and stingray. Enjoy lunch at one of the restaurants, where you pick your dish before it’s flashed grilled and placed on your plate.
Essaouira has great shopping. As it’s a relaxed beach culture, the merchants have a laid back attitude toward promoting sales compared to merchants in larger cities. Souks are great places to buy carpets, blankets, ceramics, lanterns, and jewelry.
Essaouira capitalizes on its fair weather, with terraces and pools all around the city and its outskirts. Great terraces and pools to lounge at include: Le Grill de la Terrasse de l’Heure Bleue, Pool Lounge Mogador, Le MPool, Le Taros Café Resto, and La Table du Jardin des Douars.
Renowned for surfing and windsurfing, the beach in Essaouira has a long list of offerings, including surfing, windsurfing, soccer, and surf schools. If you love the surfing life, visiting this destination is one of the best options for what to do in Essaouira.
Down a rocky road ― about 20 minutes from Essaouira proper ― is beautiful Sidi Kaouki. Well known to surfers, this beach is full of restaurants to indulge in after playing in the sea. The beach offers camel rides and horseback rides. According to legend, a trip to this location cures sterile women.
Roughly a 30-minute drive Northwest of Essaouira, this small fishing village is a well-known destination for windsurfers. If windsurfing is your passion, visiting this location is one of the best Morocco travel tips.
A 10-minute drive from Essaouira, this location is also called “Kite Beach” due to the influx of kite surfers that visit the area year round.
60 minutes from Essaouira ― virtually untouched and punctuated by cliffs ― is the hidden gem of Tafedna, where a few fishing villages keep quietly to themselves. If you’re looking for quiet relaxation, this destination is one of the best options for what to do in Essaouira.
In addition to prime surfing locations, one of the reasons I visited Essaouiri was to see the famous goats that climb argan trees. I read up on the experience and became a bit discouraged, as people have seen the goats tied to trees, so people like me can come to take photos of them. Many goat herders charge 200 dirhams ($20) for photos.
I drove 20 minutes outside of Essaouira to a roadside location, where I watched goats climb trees and jump down. I parked the car and went to meet the goats, who were unwilling to waste their time with me. They jumped from the limbs and ran away. Not to be discouraged, I followed the goats to their header ― a nice man who didn’t ask me to pay for photos.
Argan oil comes from these very goats, who climb the limbs of argan trees to eat nuts. The aftermath is then made into oil, which I put in my hair. If you use Argan oil and would like to visit the source, put visiting goat trees on your list of what to do in Essaouira.
For lunch, try not to miss these eateries that prepare exceptional fare: Dar Caravan and the dining establishments at the local Fish Market.
For fine dinner entrees and appetizers, put these establishments at the top of you list: L’Heure Bleue Palais, La Table by Madada, Caravane Cafe, La Mouette, and Les Dromadaires.
There are tons of great options for what to do in Essaouira. Why not enjoy them while looking your best? Visit Packed Perfectly and travel to Morocco in style!