One of the most pleasant places in Morocco, Essaouira is a coastal town with a lovely medina (old town). The first settlement here was by the Phoenicians in 7th century BC, before it became a Roman centre for the manufacture of purple dye. The current town though wasn’t built until the 1760s when a navel base was established. I first saw the town in the distance in the late afternoon sun.
Unusually for a medina some planning was involved, so it is mostly on a grid system with wider main streets, and narrow streets between them. It is still easy to get lost, but not on the scale of the Fes or Marrakech medinas. It is now home to around 10,000 people, though 65,000 more live outside the medina. The sun was setting by the time we arrived to walk to our hotel inside the old town.
After which I headed out into the streets of the medina, enjoyably getting slightly lost, an atmospheric if possibly not advisable exploration in the dark.
The streets felt quite different the following morning.
The medina is built on the coast, a wind and wave swept place. The Portuguese built a couple of watch towers by the port, and more structures on Essaouira‘s Small Island.
The port was one of the busiest in Morocco before the French developed Casablanca. It is filled with blue hulled fishing boats, apparently painted that colour to confuse the fish.
I’ve never been anywhere with as many cats as Essaouira. They are everywhere around the medina and port area. The majority appear to be street cats but some had collars, and most appeared well fed.
Some of the best sea views can be found from the northern part of the city walls. This is free to enter though they close immediately after the sun has set, with security using whistles to clear the fortifications of tourists.
Around the clock tower by the Bar Sbaa gate was one of the more photogenic spots in the medina.
As was walking around outside the city walls.
Outside the medina is a rather lovely beach, though the wind and wave conditions are better suited to kitesurfing than swimming.
On the other side of the medina is the Christian Cemetery, a pretty desolate and run down place outside the Bab Doukkala gate. Despite appearances the cemetery is still in use though with a surprising number of recent gravestones, some in 2018 and one in 2019 that I saw.
Behind the cemetery the effects of the sea were clear, with sand piling up against the city walls.
To end with some street art. Essaouira was home to more of it than anywhere else I visited in Morocco, though we’re only talking about maybe ten pieces.