Many Dutch holidaymakers who tour Morocco also plan to go to the fishing village of Essaouira. The town is much quieter than Marrakech, the atmosphere is less intrusive and it offers excellent opportunities to relax on the beach.
Essaouira is easy to reach from Marrakech. If you do not travel with your own car, it is advisable to take buses from the station in Marrakech. Reservations in advance are necessary, this can be done at the office of the local bus organization (owned by the Moroccan Railways) located next to the station in Marrakech. The buses are comfortable and the drivers drive very quietly by Moroccan standards. It is also possible to take the VIP bus several times a day.
There are two options for staying in Essaoira. You can choose the resorts/hotels just outside the city center (10 to 15 minutes walk from the center), which are located on or near the beach. The second option is the more primitive Riads in the medina (old town). If you choose this option, a GPS location of the address of the accommodation is highly recommended (to search with a smartphone). Cars are not allowed into the medina and especially the more remote Riads are difficult to find in the many alleys. . You must carry your luggage yourself or contact a man with a wheelbarrow; it is advisable to negotiate the price in advance.
The old medina is on the UNESCO world heritage list and consists of two parallel central streets with a large cross street at right angles with offshoot alleys on both sides. As in many medinas in Morocco, you can buy all kinds of things there, Essaoira is especially known for its wood carvings. Many shops sell the same thing, so it certainly pays to go shopping. The atmosphere is much less pushy than in Marrakech, for example, you can quietly look at a shop without immediately having a salesperson around you. Gold and silver are also sold in the middle of the city. The far northern tip of the medina should be avoided by tourists, due to the drug scene.
Cafes are mainly found in the southern part of the medina, where there is a small square with many cafes and dining options. There are also fish stalls here, where just-caught fish can be eaten. For lunch you can also eat pancakes at one of the many stalls in the city. There are also a number of Italian restaurants in the medina, something where local residents often go to eat out.
An absolute must-see is the fishing port of Essaoira. Around 12:00 the fishing boats return from the sea and the catch is unloaded in the harbor. This involves a lot of physical labor, hundreds of people are working to ensure this process runs smoothly. Part of the catch is sold directly on the street. In the port you can visit the fortress where you have a good view of the city of Essaoira. On the west side of the city you can visit the cannons, which are positioned overlooking the sea.
If you walk further south from the harbor you will arrive at the beach. Football matches take place on the first stretch of the beach. Local youth hold competitions here, and outsiders are encouraged to kick a ball along. Beach chairs are rented further afield, but don’t forget to negotiate the price here too. In general, the sea is quite cold, so real swimming is often not very pleasant, but it can be nice to cool down a bit. Kitesurfing is often done in the Essaouira area.
For holidaymakers who are traveling through various cities in Morocco, Essaouira is a good place to recover from the much busier Marrakech due to its quiet location and car-free city center. It is less suitable for a pure beach holiday because of the cold sea and the often strong wind.