Hitchcock could have filmed "The Birds" in Essaouira. It felt a little bit scary walking down to the port, especially when taking this picture as one seagull was heading straight for me! If these birds were ever to attack, Essaouira wouldn't stand a chance.
Had Draa weekly market
The village of Had Draa has a huge weekly market on Sundays, and people from all over the area come for the day. It has almost everything—a meat market (including goats’ heads in bloody piles), fruits and vegetables, mounds of olives on tarps, clothing, plastic buckets, donkey saddle bags, building materials, and live animals. There were sheep, goats, donkeys and camels, including a 4-month old baby camel.
You could also visit restaurant stalls or buy services—barbers, people sharpening knives and scissors, etc. Men seeking employment sit in a particular area with the tools of their trade. Olive pickers were being hired the day we visited. In wheat season, the men will be waiting there with scythes.
Camels cost from $500-$3,000 (U.S.) and are priced by size—the baby was $400. I learned that, in general, the more fur on its back, the younger the camel. Also, if you push on a camel, it should move. If it doesn’t, don’t buy that one—it will be stubborn.
Donkeys are much cheaper, which is why there are so many more of them. A donkey costs $35-$200. Men were “test driving” donkeys they were considering buying, and they were running all over. There was also a big "donkey parking lot" where you can leave your donkey while you shop. It costs 1 or 2 dirham, and they will also store the saddle. If you want your female donkey to get pregnant, it will happen there. If you don’t, they will keep her in a separate area.
It was confusing, dusty, sometimes aromatic, but totally fascinating. If you are in the area on a Sunday, go to it! Note: Go fairly early--the camel market ends at 10 a.m.
Had Draa is 35 km north of Essaouira (on N1 road, I think)
Dining Al Fresco
The open air fish kiosks are a must for a fresh fish lunch. And by fresh, I mean fresh. You select the raw ingredients and they cook it there in front of you. I hear that hygiene was once a problem, but that it's been tightened up some. I had no problems and excellent meal of sardins, squid and prawns.
Finding your way around Essaouira
Essaouira, meaning 'well planned' is quite easy to cover on foot- most of the towns' attractions are within easy reach, and within the town walls and ramparts.
However, it is still quite easy to get disorientated in the winding passages of the Mellah and Medina.
The bus station and Grands Taxi rank are outside the walls in the North East.
Entering Bab Doukkala, The gateway Arch at the North of the city, leads onto Ave. Zerktouni, which runs through the middle of Essaouira , changing name to Ave de L'Istiqlal, then Ave. Oqba ben Nafil, before ending near to the customs house and Fish markets.
** at my most recent visit, we were advised against wandering around the area near Bab Doukkala at night - apparently there has been some drug related trouble**
The Mellah (Jewish Quarter) fits into the area to the right of Ave. Zerktouni, from the gateway, to its intersection with Rue Mohammed el - Qory, then merges into
The Medina, which is to the right of Ave de L'Istiqlal, as far as the ramparts and Skala de la ville. The Medina is where some budget hotels are to be found, as well as the spice souk and market , which is more or less in the very middle of Essaouira.
The Kasbah, again contains hotels, and businesses, this is roughly in the area surrounding Ave Oqba ben Nafil.
Just a bit further along, is Skala de Port, fish market and grills, customs house, Place Moulay Hassan, boat harbour etc.
Tourist info office - Syndicat d'Initiative, on Rue de Caire- in the Kasbah www.essaouira.com or tel 044 475080
0900 -1200 1500- 1830 M-F
Hospital is on Rue Laquass opposite Bab Marrakesh (East side gateway)
Banks and ATMs - Place Moulay Hassan, had a selection of banks, plus some near Bab Doukkala I think. Hotel receptions are another option for foreign exchange.
Place Prince Moulay Hassan
I started my walk around Essaouira early in the morning and at first... I felt a bit strange as I didn't see any foreign visitors. When I thought that I was the only one, I got to large, rectangular, white square called Place Prince Moulay Hassan where surprisingly I met quite numerous foreign visitors sitting in a few restaurants/bars and eating breakfast.
The renovated recently square looked more European than the rest, more neglected, part of the city. It reminded me Andalusian white towns in southern Spain. The square is a place to eat, sleep (2 hotels there) and watch mainly visitors.