Essaouira, the Ancient Mogador
Although most of the medina and its fortifications date back to the 18th century, the history of Essaouira dates back to the Phoenicians.
Built on a rocky peninsula with access to the port and a beautiful beach, the ochre ramparts now enclose a medina of incomparable charm.
It comes notably from its pedestrian and coloured alleys, its white houses with blue shutters, bathed in a so particular atmosphere where crafts and art have a place of choice.
Essaouira, where the trade winds blow tempering the oppressive summer heat, enjoys a mild climate all year round, making the Souirie coast a paradise for surfers, windsurfers and other water sports enthusiasts.
The life of Essaouira is punctuated by cultural or religious events, including the Gnaoua festival and world music in June and the pilgrimage of the Regraga brotherhood in April.
It is to a long stroll that invites the medina of Essaouira, of its animated lanes open some souks, innumerable galleries of art and antique dealers, without forgetting the craftsmen based under the Sqala of Kasbah and the cooperatives of argan or thuja, specialities of the area.
Essaouira has a vast historical heritage widely represented in the Sidi Mohammed-ben-Abdellah museum. The unceasing activity of the port, the long walks on the beach and the water sports, here numerous, add to Essaouira a certain interest.
Music and culture are celebrated there during annual events, and during the year, some night venues offer live or musical evenings.
As in all coastal towns, fish is in the spotlight in most restaurants and can be enjoyed just offloaded from the boats in the port stalls and at the fish market. Whether it is the small popular bar or the cosy café, Essaouira has something to satisfy every taste and every thirst.
The port of Mogador-Essaouira
From dawn, in the middle of the flights of gulls and cormorants omnipresent on the quays, the port comes to life little by little…
Fishermen are busy mending their red nets, along the wharves waddling trawlers, while others, on holds, wait to be refurbished.
There is excitement when fishermen return from the sea, when they unload their baskets filled with the catch of the day and when sardines, sarels and mackerel meet at the auction, in the hall outside the harbour, from Monday to Saturday, from 3 to 5 pm.
Access to the port via the naval gate at the end of Mohammed V Avenue at the Essaouira medina, and by the extension of Moulay Hassan Square. It is possible to have a meal and a drink in one of the 2 restaurants.
Sea trips to the island of Mogador and the village of Diabat are organized. Contact the counter located in the port next to the restaurant at Sam’s. Count one hour. Also organizes fishing trips.
Outings: 10:30am – 11:30am – 3:00am – 4:15pm – 5:30pm in summer. 12 noon and 3:30pm the rest of the year. Except for storm days.
Rates: Adult / Child: 80/40 Dh. Tel + 212 (0)5 24 47 46 18.
Bastions of Essaouira
Sqala of the port
Built in 1806 this artillery platform, intended to protect the city and its port, is connected to the Navy Gate, the corner tower which dominates it offers an unobstructed view over the medina, the port, the beach and the islands of Mogador.
Access to the right of the Porte de la Marine, port of Essaouira. Entry fee: 10 Dh or 3 Dh for children under 12 and 2 Dh in school groups.
Sqala de la Kasbah
Located at the north-west point of the medina, the Sqala de la Kasbah gathers at its base in a succession of small cells which served as ammunition depots, workshops and shops of craftsmen of the city.
A wide ramp leads to the bastion erected at the foot of the cliffs and to the Sqala, a defensive round path where a collection of 18th and 19th century Spanish cannons face the ocean.
Between beaches and Atlas, the surroundings of Essaouira
A huge beach beaten by waves, in summer, here as in Essaouira, the winds can be particularly strong, making the happiness of windsurfers and surfers, but making swimming dangerous.
Failing to defy the waves, beautiful walks on the beach, on horseback or camel, are offered to you. At the beginning of the beach, stands facing the sea, the marabout, tomb of a holy man who gave his name to the place: Sidi Kaouki.
Sidi Kaouki practices
Some cafés restaurants along the beach, some making hotel while others propose the hiring of surfboards, windsurf boards…
The “Ranch d’Essaouira” organizes horse rides -120 Dh/h, 350 Dh the half-day, 650 DH the day, while some camel drivers offer their service on the beach – 80 Dh/h approximately.
Coming to Sidi Kaouki
Sidi Kaouki is 27 km south of Essaouira by the Agadir road.
The local bus n° 2 “Essaouira-Sidi Kaouki” leaves Bab Doukkala 8 times a day: 6am – 7:45am – 9:30am- 11:15am – 12:45pm – 2:45pm – 4:30pm – 6:30pm. Go : 7 Dh.
The large taxis parked next door shuttle. Go: 10 Dh.
Diabat and Cape Sim
6 km south of Essaouira, the Berber village of Diabat made famous by the visit of Jimi Hendrix in the 70s, offers a beautiful overview of Essaouira and its bay.
The peaceful village of yesteryear could become a seaside town. Marina, golf and hotel complexes are being built just 2 km away. Continuing a little further south, we can see the ruins of Dar Soltane, a ruined and sandy palace in the middle of the dunes of Cape Sim.
The magnificent beach beyond the cordon of dunes that border it invites us to long walks or horse rides, and for the more sporty to come and tease the waves.
The local bus n° 2 “Essaouira-Sidi Kaouki” serves Diabat 8 times a day from Bab Doukkala.
6:00am – 7:45am – 9:30am – 11:15am – 12:45pm – 2:45pm – 4:30pm – 6:30pm. 5 DH.
South of Essaouira, in a region where the argan tree and the thuja dominate, an olive grove indicates the village of Smimou, which one crosses before finding, 7 km further, the track of Amsittene. From there an all-terrain vehicle becomes indispensable.
Despite its modest altitude of 905 m, the jbel Amsittene occupies a dominant position. The winding climbing trail, sometimes along impressive cliffs, offers varied views of the nearby mountains and, in the distance, the ocean.
At the end of the track which leads to the foot of the watchtower, magnificent circular view, on the one hand on the Atlantic coast up to Cap Sim and Essaouira, on the other hand on the High Atlas.
Most of the services are located in the medina, essentially around Moulay Hassan Square, a true landmark of the city. The adjacent pedestrian streets are home to shops, herbalists, dry cleaners and restaurants.
Along the beach, Mohammed V Boulevard has travel and car rental agencies.
Getting to Essaouira
The bus station is only a few minutes walk northeast of the medina.
For those arriving by car, you will have to park at one of the car parks located at the main entrances to the medina, which is prohibited to all vehicles.
The coaches, carriers equipped with carts, offer to transport your belongings to your destination for about 20 Dh.
Small taxis and transport in town
Outside the medina, small taxis apply a single rate of 6 Dh per person during the day and 7 Dh from 8pm. For the airport, count 50 Dh.
More picturesque, the Bâb Doukkala carriages parked outside the ramparts are a good alternative to taxis. 12 Dh per person per trip, for a walk it is necessary to count 60 Dh per hour whatever the number of passengers.
Hotels and guest houses
The choice of accommodation in Essaouira is sufficiently developed to satisfy everyone’s wishes and budgets. Some hotels for small budgets are scattered in the medina next to charming guest houses. Along the beach facing the sea the listed hotels line Mohammed V Boulevard.
Bookshops and Foreign Press
La Fibule Bookstore. Large choice of postcards, novels and what concerns Morocco. 11 place Moulay Hassan. Every day from 9am to 9pm.
Aida Gallery. Good choice of books on Morocco, its customs and traditions, but also poetry and literature in a craft bric à brac. 2 rue de la Skala.
Jack’s kiosk. Mostly international press and a few books. Apartment rentals. 1 place Moulay Hassan.
Come to Essaouira or continue your trip
Essaouira, on the Atlantic coast, is halfway between Safi in the north and Agadir in the south. West Marrakech is 175 km.
The airport is located 15 km south of the city and is served daily by the urban buses of line 2 “Essaouira – Sidi Kaouki”.
Departure from Bab Doukkala at 6:00am – 7:45am – 9:30am – 11:15am – 12:45pm – 2:45pm – 4:30pm – 6:30pm.
Despite the expansion of direct flights to Essaouira, it is often more economical to come to Marrakech and follow with a bus or collective taxi.
Essaouira Bus Station
The bus station is about 500 m northeast of the medina. Deposit and CTM agency. Large taxis park next to the bus station.
CTM Agency in Essaouira
Located within the bus station, the agency is open every day from 6am to 9pm. Information: 05 24 78 47 64.
Essaouira Supratours Agency
Agency, on the small square opposite the South Bastion, open 3 times a day: 6:15am – 7:15am, 9:00am – 1:15pm, 3:00pm – 6:45pm. Information: 05 24 47 53 17.
The large taxis for Agadir, Marrakech… are located next to the bus station.
Book your private transfer from / to Marrakech
VISIT ESSAOUIRA AT THE DEPARTURE OF MARRAKECH