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Escape the crowds and enjoy Marrakech's serene coastal neighbour

Easyvoyage logo Easyvoyage 20/03/2017 Bella Eadie

a guide to essaouira Escape the crowds and enjoy Marrakech's serene coastal neighbour Located on the windy west coast of Morocco, just a few hours from Marrakech, lies the vibrant Atlantic coast city of Essaouria.

"Swerah", as locals call it, has a rustic feel with the ruins of its stone walls surrounding the medina in the centre which date back over 300 years through the city's long history. Its walls have earned it the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site, a fact which has also steadily brought more visitors to the city.

The walled medina has been well preserved and beneath it lie narrow streets with lively souqs and decorative wooden doors in beautiful colours against rustic white houses, perfect to explore and providing shelter from the wind coming in from the Atlantic.

The "Wind City of Africa" has long attracted windsurfers and kitesurfers to its shores, with its long golden sandy beach, pleasant temperatures and strong winds.

But in recent years, the city has gradually become a haven for all kinds of visitors. Simple guesthouses have become stylish boutique hotels, and the fresh fish market produce is sold to trendy, up-market restaurants for creative dining experiences.

Essaouira is also home to a working port, well worth a visit, with boats coming in and out, fisherman sorting their catches of the day and wooden boats being constructed. The fisherman can be found selling their produce at a daily fish market just by the gates to the port.

Essaouira is a much calmer city than its busy neighbour, Marrakech, but there is still much to do on a visit to the coastal city. On the days where the strong Atlantic winds aren't blustering too hard, the long golden sands of the beach are perfect for relaxing, swimming, or even taking a horse or camel ride to explore the mile-long ruins that run alongside the beach.

The windier days can be a fantastic opportunity to learn to kitesurf or windsurf, or rent a body board and splash about in the ocean waves. Take an evening stroll along the ramparts and watch the sun set over the water.

Inside the city you can poke about in the colourful souqs to pick up some of the many handmade Moroccan goods such as scarves, ottomans, lanterns, carpets and rugs, jewellery, crockery or leather shoes. The variety of spices in the market is also something not to miss.

Pop in and out of the city's many art galleries which showcase diverse art from paintings by local artists to quirky sculptures. Some places even host workshops where visitors can create their own art.

If life in the city gets too much, there are many trips that you can take out of Essaouira, including camel treks, hikes, and quad-bike excursions, or you can visit many of the neighbouring towns and villages, complete with more fantastic restaurants and markets, which all have so much to offer.

Essaouira is well known for its traditional Gnaoua music, which can often be heard playing throughout the streets, but in June the city hosts the World Music Festival where you can find concerts in the main squares and listen to the reed pipes and metal chimes ring out throughout the stone walls.

The best way to reach Essaouira is to fly in to Marrakech airport, where you can easily find a reasonably priced taxi, or take the bus the three hours to the coast.

The best time of year to visit depends on what sort of holiday you are looking for. The spring, from March onwards, promises sunny weather with moderate temperatures.

But the city really heats up in May and June, a great time to go for the music festivals taking place. July and August are the windiest months so perhaps best to be avoided if you are looking for a calm beach holiday, whilst September to November provides calmer seas and lingering summer warmth.

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