E S S A O U I R A
This time last Friday I was sipping an iced coffee at Le Simoun Tea Lounge in a 5-storey converted riad right by the sea wall in Skala, Essaouira. Every two minutes, a mini flock of seagulls would swoop down (most are white with orange lipstick but this one’s grey so I think it’s a female?)
If you haven’t been yet, you could say if Marrakech is London, Essaouira is Cornwall.
I’m heading back in Sept with my Waitrose bag which enjoyed its trip too (pictured below at Riad Al Zahia a few doors down) last Thursday.
Rooftop view at lunchtime…no Waitrose salads here but the view is pure blue
LE SIMOUN TEA LOUNGE
Tea Lounge & Restaurant – coffee’s good, staff are just lovely and the view comes free
Jonathan Livingston Seagull swooped into this shot (Essaouira has a huge sandy beach, 5 mins walk from here)
E S S A O U I R A
Next time you’re in Marrakech and fancy a blast of oxygen-rich sea air, wandering around Essa’s totally chilled medina and having an almost untouched beach to yourself (except in August) all you have to do is hop into a grand taxi or get a Supratours or CTM coach and head 2.5 hrs west, towards the coast. If you find it hard bargaining with vendors, Essaouira’s shop sellers are much more laid back than the ones in Marrakech – another reason I like it here as I’m hopeless with bargaining and hate pressure selling.
One thing I just want to say here – I’ve seen a few tourists haggle hard with the vendors to the point that the vendor can barely make any money out of the sale. Yes you should haggle but please don’t drive the prices down so low that these often poor people can’t make a living. Things are so much cheaper than in the UK already. We are rich compared to most of the locals and our tourist money will buy them food or school supplies for their children. A lot of people here live day to day.
So please don’t haggle too hard. (OK off my soap box now!!)
Essaouira (unlike Marrakech which can get pretty hot in summer but is stunning in winter) is never too hot, never too cold and the wind will blow your worries away while sun pretty much shines all year round. Summer temps reach 30C max and there’s almost always a breeze or stronger wind, which is why it’s a favourite with kite surfers.
Best time to go? Autumn is idyllic but the sun shines almost non-stop in winter too
Sept/Oct are the best months to visit (28C-ish) when you’ll be welcomed by a deep azure sky and light breezes and August’s holidaymakers have gone – in fact I’d say it’s one of the best autumn/winter escapes within a 3.5 hr flight from the UK and I’ve done a lot of travelling in my years.
Winter daytime temps range between 18C and 24C-ish (from my experience) and nights are around 9C – 15 C-ish
If you love silver jewellery this is the place to shop!
You can even visit artistan’s workshops and see how they make and engrave all the beautiful silver rings and bracelets (Berbers don’t wear gold, it’s not considered lucky). You’ll also find pretty tunics and colourful leather babooshkas (pointed slippers), scarves, gorgeous shawls and loads of flowy clothes although I think Marrakech is definitely a better place to shop on the fashion front for kaftans and tunics as the selection in Essaouira is more limited – ditto for the leather bags although there are some good bag and boots shops in Essa, too.
A lot of the Berber and Touareg jewellery you find in Essaouira comes from the desert towns and places like Mali
The Southern Cross (pendant in the pic) is a typical symbol
Note the kohl eyeliner holder (you pull the tip out!) next to the bracelet
Essaouira – a symbol of religious tolerance
Essaouira is famous in Morocco for being a calm place by the sea and it’s also interesting geographically because it more or less splits the Arabs (from the north) and Berbers (in the south). Its rich and vibrant cultural and religious makeup means that Muslims, Jews and Christians all live together as neighbours. In many important ways, it’s a model of religious tolerance and that’s one of the reasons I feel so at home here. In the past, I think the local community was almost 50% Jewish (I need to double check that) but now numbers have dwindled dramatically although the Jewish quarter, the Mellah, is being restored which is an important project for the town.
In all my years of travel the Greek Islands and Essaouira are the places I’ve been welcomed most warmly and where I’ve really got to know the locals and their families.
Back, quickly, to the shopping though…the Thuja wood boxes and the local ceramics (from Safi, north of Essaouira) are really pretty and well priced – I always pick up a new ring and a ceramic salad bowl or two, to bring back (£5 each). Definitely take some time to shop the jewellery, there are so many boutiques you’ll probably want to scout around before you finally buy a piece.
My silver and colourful enamel rings (I have about 10!) cost me between £15 and £50 each, depending on the quality of the silver and intricate work involved). I’ll post loads of jewellery pics in Sept on the blog, when I’m back there!
If you’re going to Essaouira and haven’t been before, Tweet me at @BeautyShortlist as I know the town well and would be happy to help with any advice on where to stay, where to eat, what to do and what not to miss.