Place Moulay Hassan
After a stressful time on the previous day, dealing with doctors and clinics and having my foot put in plaster, a few hours in Essaouira’s main square, the Place Moulay Hassan, was just what we both needed. Although not tranquil, the pace of life is slower here than in Marrakesh. There is plenty to observe but people take a little more time to talk to each other, and to look around and appreciate their surroundings.
And what surroundings! The square benefits from having the ramparts of the Medina as a backdrop, and the crashing waves of the Atlantic as a foreground. As we sat in a café on the town side we could see the fortification of the Skala du Port shaded almost violet by the haze and the spray, and to our left the glare of the sunlight on the white rampart wall, or Skala de la Ville, encircling the Medina. Seagulls swirled around the lamp-posts, which like some of the buildings here struck me as very European in design.
The square is also a great place for people watching, and later I relaxed on a bench near the 18th century port gateway, watching locals and visitors coming and going, and grabbing some candid photos and soaking up the warm sunshine. It was most probably here, just 24 hours after I had emerged, “plastered” and on crutches, from a Marrakesh clinic, that I realised that it would still be possible to have something of a holiday and enjoy just a little of Morocco after all.
The color of the traditional clothing of this little girl is what is called the 'Tuareg blue', though not worn only by Tuaregs, but by anybody. If you buy one, you will realize it is very pleasant to wear.
Chez Sam is the perfect romantic restaurant. Great seafood, with a wonderful view of the fishing boats coming in and out of the harbour. The set seafood menu, at DH85, is fantastic. Or you can push the boat out and eat lobster. There is a good selection of wine too.
Chez Sam was featured in the Claude Lelouch film, "And Now Ladies and Gentlemen", which premiered at the 2002 Cannes film Festival. I really love this place and would say that if you have only one night in Essaouira, make sure you spend it here.
Either arrive early or make a reservation to get one of the window seats, with a sea view.
The Medina of Essaouira was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Its ramparts protect a maze of streets and jumbled buildings dating back to the 18th century. This fortified town was conceived by a Moroccan sultan, Mohammed III, who had captured a French architect. The new town he created on the site of what had been Medieval Mogador now took the name of "Es-Saouira" meaning "beautifully designed".
Thanks to these origins the Medina has the more ordered street pattern of a European town. The uniformity of the gleaming white walls and blue shutters creates a harmonious impression that wouldn’t be out of place in a Mediterranean village – Greek or Spanish perhaps. Unsurprisingly the town has attracted artists and there are several small galleries dotted around. We had a quick look in one, and would have liked to have been able to explore more thoroughly.
We would also have liked to have been able to climb to the top of the ramparts from which (apparently) great views are to be had, but instead contented ourselves with a brief walk around a couple of the streets beneath their shade. There are lots of photo opportunities here although taking pictures of the architecture isn’t always easy as the contrast between sunshine and shadow can be very marked.
Things to see from Skala du Port - Boat Yard
I hadn't appreciated the size of the boat yard, until I viewed it from the top of Skala du Port.
Apparently You can hire boats from here. So it's possible to visit the nearby Iles de Mogador (with a permit).
The boat yard was quite interesting to view from here, with plenty going on. It's a good place to see some local life