With summer temperatures which regularly soar well over the 40C mark, it is no surprise that the good citizens of Marrakech are keen for access to a cool breeze – and the place they head for to get that is the historic, coastal town of Essaouira. Located on the Atlantic coast in western Morocca, Essaouira is easily accessible by car, bus or train from Marrakech. With less than a week in the region, we wanted to get a taste of more than just Marrakech so we booked a driver and headed off on a drive that took just over two hours, but offered plenty of distractions.
The drive is mostly flat and passes through many small towns and villages, but the locals do what they can to liven things up. It’s well known that goats have a fondness for climbing, but I’m unsure if that fondness extends as far as one enterprising local would have us believe. At one point in the drive, our vehicle slowed as we noticed several cars pulled over to the side of the road. Given that we were tourists and therefore entitled to “rubber-neck” we did just that, gawping in surprise at the scene above. Several of the low-growing, scrubby trees had been decorated with goats, who just stood on the branches patiently while onlookers snapped their pictures. Of course, there was a delightful young man who insisted that they had all climbed up of their own accord and who held his hand out for a donation, but who wouldn’t pay to see this? I’ve seen some goats who have managed to get into odd situations, but this really took the cake.
Our next stop was to check out an argan oil producing cooperative. Argan oil is extracted from the kernel of the argan tree and is becoming increasingly popular for it’s cosmetic properties as well as a healthy food oil. Attempts to mechanise the delicate extraction process have been largely unsuccessful, so it is generally done by hand within women’s cooperatives. The nuts are dried before the shell is removed, then those whose oil is destined for culinary use are roasted. The kernels are then ground by hand into a mash from which the oil is filtered. Cosmetic oil is produced in the same way, minus the roasting stage. There are various small collectives producing the oil and the one we stopped at was full of these delightful and friendly Berber ladies whose skill at the work is considered to be unparalleled.
From there we made our way into the strikingly pretty town of Essaouira. The beach here is incredibly wide and really windswept. The powerful trade winds will take your hat off if you are not careful and blowing sand can be a nuisance. There’s plenty to do here with kitesurfing, quad biking excursions, windsurfing and camel rides popular, if blowy, beach pursuits. Away from the beach tourists can enjoy cooking classes, photography excursions and massages.
One thing Essaouira is especially noted for is it’s seafood – bit of a no-brainer in a fishing town, I suppose. After we had spent a couple of hours wandering around and taking in the sights we stopped at one of the beachside restaurants and had a splendid seafood lunch, complete with cold beers, for a ridiculously small amount of money. Jut another reason to love this stunningly scenic spot.
I was still broken and bruised while in Morocco and unable to hold my camera, so all of these images were taken by my daughter and edited by me.