Morocco is home to an impressive 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites! These sites are dotted throughout the country, from expected places like Marrakesh and Fez, to Tetouan, a relatively untouristed northern city, and on to the desert lands of the Sahara. If you are a lover of history and culture, it makes a lot of sense to use these sites as pillars or totems for your own tour of Morocco.
Morocco isn’t just winding souks and desert dunes: it’s also 1,200 miles of coastline running along the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. Along the coast, charming harbors, busy fishing ports and picturesque beach towns abound – they’re just as diverse as Morocco’s interior. There are many Moroccan coastal towns waiting to be explored, most of which are completely off the radar destinations.
Aside from Agadir and its package holiday resorts, most of Morocco’s coastal towns actually remain largely untouched making them ideal for laid back travelers curious to get to know Morocco off the beaten path. From stress-free medinas to incredible mountain backdrops, our top 5 Moroccan coastal towns have it all. Take your pick and spend your Moroccan getaway taking easy strolls along the beach.
Alyson gave me a horrified look when I asked her how long the dada (a term often used to refer to female chefs at Moroccan hotels) had been teaching Moroccan cooking classes. “Don’t call her that! She’s a chef! I’ll explain later,” she whispered, glancing worriedly at Mona to make sure my question hadn’t been overheard. (more…)
So, you’re in Essaouira for a few days. You’re adventurous and your taste buds are tired of the mostly similar Moroccan fare you’ve eaten so far in Casablanca, Fez and even Marrakesh. You might be with a group and have the afternoon to yourself or perhaps traveling alone or with your partner. Any way you slice it, by the time you get to the beautiful Moroccan coastal town of Essaouira, you’re likely going to be craving something a bit different than the Moroccan fare you’ve been treated to thus far, though you’ll want to search out for something authentic at the same time. Today, I’m letting my secret out of the places I love to dine at while traveling Morocco and telling you all about my secret eateries of Essaouira. (more…)
With its white walls and bright, broad main streets, its relaxed and friendly inhabitants, and its vibrant arts and music scene, Essaouira is my favorite city in Morocco. It has world-class kite-surfing, a beautiful beach and two major music festivals every year. Its atmosphere is unique for Morocco — a splendid mix of new and old, hippy and affluent — and it’s well-developed for tourism. (more…)
In Essaouira, there is a cooking class unlike any other in Morocco. Khadija’s Kuzina, located just outside the medina, is an experience that is so much more than just learning something about cooking Moroccan cuisine. It’s a visit into the hearts of the proprietors, Lahoussaine (a.k.a. “Hussein”) El Faded and Khadija El Jadiri, and an intimate preparation of dinner in their home rather than in a commercial kitchen. (more…)
If you’re planning your first trip to Morocco, chances are you’ll be tempted to visit the country’s best known sites: the busy souks of Marrakech, the historic mosques of Fez, the infinite sea of golden dunes in the Sahara Desert, the windy coastline in Essaouira, or the dramatic mountain landscapes of the High Atlas. While these will all be worthwhile destinations during your trip in Morocco, don’t forget to include Moroccan villages! There’s a case to be made for wandering off the beaten path and exploring some of the country’s lesser visited towns and villages. It’s here that you’ll get to taste a slice of real Morocco, away from the tourist crowds and at your own comfortable pace.
So many destinations, so little time! With the New Year finally here, for many travelers the question isn’t if you’ll be traveling or when you’ll be traveling: it’s just a matter of where. Where should you go on your dream vacation? Where should you spend your days relaxing after a hectic month at work? Where will you be taking that once-in-a-lifetime family trip?
To make your life a little easier, we give you 7 excellent excuses to visit Morocco as your next destination in 2017.
It’s not the blue city (Chefchaouen), or the capital (Rabat), or well known for the way it comes to life at night (Marrakesh), it’s simply Essaouira; the calm, coastal city where Moroccans and visitors go to lose themselves and relax. If you’re not convinced yet, sit back and enjoy six more pictures that will make you want to plan a trip to visit Essaouira immediately.
For the past 15 years Essaouira has been home to the Gnaoua World Music Festival. Every summer in June, for four days, the Gnaoua Festival welcomes famous musicians to participate, share their musical ideas and create one of the most elaborate concerts in the world. Starting in 1998, the concerts have regularly drawn crowds of more than 200,000 people. The festival provides not only a platform for musical exchange but a meeting point for open-minded dialogue between foreign artists and the transcendental Gnaoua musicians. It’s a place where Gnaoua music meets the rest of the world and exchanges ideas. This colorful patchwork of musical fusion provides a fantastic space for Gnaoua musicians to jam with jazz, pop, hip-hop, rock and contemporary world music masters in the coastal town of Essaouira.
Gnaoua music is a mixture of sub-Saharan African, Berber and Sufi religious songs and music. The musical style can be described as both a spiritual prayer and an important celebration of life. Like most music, much of Gnaoua’s style can be traced to sub-Saharan Africa. Today, its practice is concentrated in Morocco. (more…)
Essaouira, on the rocky southwestern coast of Morocco, is a favorite among visitors and locals alike. The constant sea breezes cool the small city in summer and warm it in the winter, providing a pleasant atmosphere year round. The winds also attract wind and kite surfers from around the globe; the beaches in and around Essaouira are considered some of the best kite surfing waters in the world. What really draws the crowds, however, is the beautiful architecture, lovely sea views and easy going atmosphere. (more…)
When some visitors travel to Morocco, cultural experiences are an enticing attraction. This is why so many venture to the port city Essaouira to participate in the World Gnaoua Festival. Also known as the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival, the event brings together global music traditions as well as those of the Gnaouas, a blend of African tribal music and Islamic rituals. The music itself incorporates drums and other instruments to bring the performers to a trance-like state.
Essaouira is one of those picturesque seaside places dotted with houses painted in bright white and blue. It is a popular resort location situated just below the Atlas Mountains and attracts travelers who want to indulge in its relaxing environs and take advantage of its excellent beaches. The town is a former Portuguese settlement dating back to the 18th century. While waiting for the music events to begin, you can absorb some of the local history by touring old fortresses or browse the myriad shops that house Essaouira’s many artisans and craftsmen.
If you travel to Essaouira after visiting other Moroccan cities, one of the first things you might notice in the medina is dreadlocks—several shopkeepers with dreadlocks. The town’s amiable medina, well-kept beach and quiet serenity make Essaouira an attractive place to get away.
Beyond the dreads, the medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has a uniquely relaxed ambiance. Rather than calling passers-by into their shops, merchants tend to quietly observe the crowd or mingle with locals, leaving tourists to browse through handmade Berber baskets, colorful fabrics and artisan handicrafts relatively pressure-free. Even negotiating for goods feels low-key, but don’t let down your guard when buying—Moroccan bargaining customs still apply! (more…)
Wandering the wet stony streets one thirsty mooned night in Essaouira, Morocco, we searched in vain for an authentic fish eatery. We had eaten so many times at the dock: A couple ambiance boat-shaped restaurants line the dock past the Portuguese-built harbor walls. Though the food is grilled tasty, the prices are not local. Through ear straining hearsay, we heard of a place where thigh-sized fish accompanied pyramids of prawn and shrimp. The hearsaid voices spit in our minds: fish, fresh, eat, cheap… We lusted over the plausibility. (more…)