MAROC WEEK: ESSAOUIRA PHOTO BY PHOTO
I’ve spent too much time chatting to local artists and vendors here and not enough time gathering their contact info – so a lot of the boutiques and artisans featured here don’t have exact addresses (most don’t seem to have websites, they’re on FB).
But “mkain mshkil” (no problem)…all the more reason to come to Essaouira and seek them out for yourself.
It’s been the most magical week exploring little workshops behind doors, new tea rooms and ateliers and surprises like this one – the Calligraphy Atelier at Porte de Skala No. 43.
Tiles, thuja wood carvings, jewellery, Moroccan slippers, art and a million gifts along the intricately pebbled pedestrianised zone of Porte de la Skala by the sea wall ramparts
La Skala is where all the arched “warehouses” are, along the street that runs one level below Il Mare Restaurant. Ask a local and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Or find the big arch next to Pasta Baladin and keep walking straight ahead, under the next arch and you’ll see all these arched door boutiques on your left. It’s never too crowded here, I love walking around this part of the medina. (Essaouira’s medina is UNESCO protected and one of the reasons the locals are so friendly is because so many nations and cultures have passed through this trading port. The medina is much easier to navigate than Marrakech’s – no comparison! – and apparently it’s the only medina in Morocco designed to an exact plan (my bad translation of a French guide book).
It’s a joy to wander around here, the people are super-friendly and always have a tale or two to tell and the artisans are always happy to tell you how they make things, or what they symbolise, etc.
And easyJet now flies London Luton to Essaouira direct on Fridays and Mondays (hello 3-day Moroccan weekend!)
Here are a few of the highlights of my wanderings around town this weekend – enjoy! x
THE LA SKALA BOUTIQUES (along the seafront wall)
I think this is my favourite place to wander, you enter via a big arch to the left of Pasta Baladin and just keep going.
Stroll up to No. 43 Porte de la Skala, it’s near the end (the numbers go up from 28…onwards, so keep walking, it’s just a few minutes) – I bought two of these beautiful calligraphy cards for 50 dirhams each (about £4?)
Left to right, top row: ESSAOUIRA, WATER and the orange background one is LOVE. I think the circular one in the middle is FREEDOM but there were so many and I was so enchanted by these that everything is swimming in my head right now…the artist also does some charming aquarelle and ink Essaouira pictures – happy Gnawa musicians (below), blue boats in the harbour, etc. (And when he’s not creating, he’s surfing).
I think Tibari Atelier at No. 43 might be my favourite place for an art souvenir of my favourite place in Morocco, Essaouira. Some of Tibari’s work would be just adorable for a child’s bedroom.
Tibari spent a lot of time explaining the calligraphy themes to me and telling me about his work – thank you.
He does commissions too, and he’ll write your name, beautifully, and fluidly, in intricate, inky Arabic.
On my way to the Calligraphy Atelier, I passed this bicycle with GAZELLE on it. Moroccans call girls “gazelles” and just as I took the pic this woman walked by wearing this heavenly shade of deep mid blue.
Pretty much everything in Essaouira is blue – the doors, shutters, sky and sea – even the taxis are a bright Atlantic blue, and sometimes when I look up into the bright sunshine at the blue wooden shutters against whitewashed cubed rooftops, I imagine I’m back in Greece for a moment.
Q: How do you tell an Essaouira Grand Taxi from a Marrakech one?
A: The Marrakech ones are creamy beige, the Essa ones are bright turquoise/blue.
In fact they’re pretty close to this colour:
These are Tadelakt gifts, so they’re more expensive because they’re humidity proof (like the walls in the best hotel bathrooms and riads in Marrakech and Essaouira – I don’t know much about this technique but it leaves a slightly glossy sheen and these looked gorgeous in the bright sunlight this morning!) You’ll find them in the same street at No. 29 or 30 (can’t remember!)
No. 43 – Calligraphy (the artist outside his atelier)
Love these, they’re so simple and so stylish and you can find them in a lot of places as well as Skala
This amazing piece, in a thuja wood shop, shows His Majesty King Mohammed VI surrounded by the Alaouite Dynasty (Morocco’s Royal Family’s ancestors), including many, many Sultans. Incredible. Beautiful.
Raffia shoes – all different sizes, all on the same street
I think this place ABOVE was called Hoge Mogador and the guy who was there was absolutely lovely! He explained a lot of things to me about Darija (Moroccan Arabic).
If it wasn’t for the fact that I was getting light-headed from not eating, I’d have stayed much longer. Brilliant place for gifts. The number is missing above his boutique but I think it was 29 or 30 (obviously I have had too much Moroccan sun this week, but you’ll spot it once you’re walking along Porte de la Skala!) Gorgeous Tadelakt gifts – more here:
Mega eggs with tassels and glam egg cups for next weekend’s breakfast
MEDINA – this is one of my favourite ceramics shops, it’s on the other side of the street, either before or after Maison du Sud (riad), if you ask people will know it. The guy who runs it was busy with clients when I popped in to say hi but he’s on Av. Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah (where you’ll find a lot of the silver Berber jewellery and baboosh slippers shops) – look for the blue shop front and all the ceramics outside.
Outside the front of the shop
HISTOIRE DES FILLES
near BAB SBAH (main arch entrance near the fishing port and Dar Souiri or Villa del’O)
If you don’t have time for shopping and are prepared to pay a bit extra for a handpicked edit, head to Histoire des Filles, you’ll love this place!
Every time I Instagram these people love them – you just need one to totally transform a cream sofa
Buy the covers only and take them home in your hand luggage
Moroccan? No. Turkish? No. Tunisian? Yes
I overloaded my eco shopping bag at the souk with way too many tomatoes – one of the handles broke. #Newbag (Sarong is mine from Portugal via somewhere distant and exotic?)
How about one of these? The sea turquoise one at the top was stunning – almost bought it.
I think they were about £15-20 each #toomuchsun #cantremember
When in Morocco…
Two doors down, Histoire des Filles have opened a cute little shop selling culinary argan oil, blended spices, teas and a few cool Marrakech-chic kitchen ceramics…some pics:
Too pretty to cook with
Tchaba Teas (the names of the blends were so dreamy, just reading them was like being whisked off on a magic carpet)
Clever idea. Instead of your glass argan bottle getting smashed in your luggage and ruining that kaftan you got in Marrakech, get these flight-friendly little argan tins (note the airplane logo in red on them!) Silver is beauty argan and black is food argan…or maybe it’s the other way round
Up next on MAROC WEEK: Beauty, Spas and Live Like A Local.