After spending the past few days in landlocked cities, we decided to head out to Essaouira, which is one of the coastal towns in Morocco.
The trip there was rather uneventful, apart from the sighting of goats in trees! My friends and I had heard people mention that in Morocco, you can see goats in trees, but we weren’t really sure if it was true or not. Sure enough, on this bus ride, we would occasionally pass olive trees, which had goats in them! I’m not talking about a small amount either – there would be say, 5 or so goats in a tree itself, and a crowd of another 5 or so goats trying to climb up it. It was very surreal, but unfortunately the bus driver didn’t stop at any of them so there was no opportunity to take photos.
Essaouira itself is a very different place to the other cities that we had been to in the country. The ubiquitous orange and yellow architecture gave way to blue and white, very fitting for the coastal setting of the place.
The city has a very interesting history, and there has been some settlement there since prehistoric times. It was a very important port for a long time, facilitating trade between the country and Europeans. The modern fortified town was built during the reign of Mohammad III, and designed by a French engineer and other European experts to be a modern city in the late 1700s.
One thing that you’ll notice as a tourist is that everyone wants to sell you the “Jimi Hendrix” experience. Myths and stories are told about how Jimi Hendrix used to live in this part of the city or that part, or how the song “Castles Made of Sand” was inspired by the city, and you can ride a horse along the beach where Jimi used to do the same thing. The fact is, Jimi Hendrix went to Morocco once, on a holiday, and none of the rumours are true.
What is true is that it was a popular place for rock stars and hippies in the 1960, and several popular artists of the time did visit. Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam was a regular. Take the stories with a grain of salt and enjoy yourself.
As with most of the cities I visited in the country, there were lots of stray cats about. Diseased? Perhaps, but this one was still extremely cute.
There are countless narrow streets full of food and assorted goods to try and explore.
Although protected to an extent by its geography, Essaouira can still get VERY windy. This part in particular was actually difficult to walk through, by virtue of both the strong winds, and the sand almost cutting into us. I’m not sure if people were living in this area. It was certainly popular for children to play in the ruins!
I was not convinced on the health benefits of eating meat that had been hanging in the heat like this. The owner of this shop started yelling at me like mad when he saw me taking a photo. I had to be stealthier in the fish market, which just smelt foul. Fish standing in the heat for hours on end is not a good thing at all.
Along this part of the coast, there were a few dodgy looking characters looking for tourists to see if they wanted “space cakes”. Alas, one has to expect this sort of thing being a westerner in a foreign country.
All in all, Essaouira had a very different vibe to what we had seen of the country so far, and was really chilled and laid back. After a few days inland, it was great to smell the ocean and get some relatively cool relief.