A Day Trip to Essaouira from Marrakech, Morocco

A day trip to Essaouiria from Marrakech Morocco

Last Updated on 10/12/20 by Rose Palmer

On a recent visit to Marrakesh, I had the opportunity to experience a day trip to Essaoura from Marrakech, Morocco. I was surprised to find that this coastal town was so much more relaxed and laid back than Marrakech. Even with a short day in Essaouira, I discovered that its beach vibe felt more akin to being in the Caribbean than on the African coast.

As a result of its good natural protected bay, Essaouira has a very long seafaring history, going as far back as the 5th century BC and into Roman times. The fortress walls that we see today are a little more modern though, having been built in the 16th century by the Portuguese.

The city itself and the Medina (old town) area is also a little newer, and was built in the mid eighteenth century by the Moroccan King Mohammed III. Through the king’s efforts, the port of Essaouira became an important final stop on the caravan trade route that brought goods from sub-Saharan Africa over the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh and then finally to Essaouira where the goods were loaded onto ships headed to Europe. It is this rich history that has contributed to the UNESCO designation of Essaouira’s Medina area.

The city of Essaouiria
My first views of Essaouira and the Atlantic beyond

My Day Trip to Essaouira from Marrakech, Morocco

I was taking a Get your Guide trip booked through Time Out Marrakech. A driver picked me up at my hotel early in the morning for the three hour drive to Essaouira.  We were a small group of only four. Our driver spoke French and some limited English – enough to get understood.

About thirty minutes from Essaouira we stopped at a Women’s Argan Oil Cooperative. Here, we had a quick tour of the traditional process still used to extract this popular oil. The oil comes from kernels inside a nut.  The women first remove the flesh around the nut, and they crack the hard nut to remove the kernels. These kernels are then mashed to created a pulp and release the oil.

I always like to support the women in such cooperatives so I did some Christmas shopping and took home small bottles of Argon oil and some soaps as gifts.

We then drove on to Essaouira and arrived by lunchtime. Our small group chose one of the many beach-side restaurants for lunch. Not surprising, the menu offered up a selection of seafood dishes. Even though it was mid November, the temperature was moderate, the sun was shining, and the ocean breeze was warm, so I enjoyed my seafood tagine al-fresco with views of palm trees lining the broad sandy beach.

Eating lunch with a view of the beach
The wide long beach in Essaouira is great for strolling.

After lunch, I explored the historic Medina area and the rampart walls that protect it. With so many cannons pointing out toward the sea, and rough waves crashing against the high walls, I understood why potential invaders were unsuccessful in taking the city and why pirates sought refuge here. In that setting, I don’t think I would have been surprised to see a tall masted ship appear on the horizon – it certainly would have felt appropriate.

Walking the ramparts

Exploring the Medina in Essaouira was a joy. It is smaller and felt much less chaotic than the Medina in Marrakesh. The predominantly white buildings trimmed in blue left no doubt that I was in a sea side setting.

I liked that I could wander the lanes without being bothered by the shop merchants-it certainly made me more inclined to browse. And there weren’t nearly as many motorcycles whizzing by in the narrow lanes as I had to deal with in Marrakesh.

One of the charming lanes in the Medina

The Madina here was certainly very photogenic. The multicolored ceramics and woven rugs were beautifully set off by the blue and white color scheme of many of the buildings.

As I poked my head into the shops and looked at window displays, the artistic side of Essaouira was evident. Sure, there were all the usual touristy offerings, but there were also higher end shops displaying art, jewelry and delicately carved and inlayed wood crafts.

This area of Morocco is especially known for the Thuya wood carvings. The Thuya tree is a small, slow growing conifer that is native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. I found a number of small local artistinal woodworking shops at the base of the rampart walls that seemed to have more unique and distinctive pieces. My luggage unfortunately was not large enough to go home with the handmade Thuya wood end tables that caught my eye, which was probably a good thing.

One of many colorful carpet shop displays
Unique art for sale throughout the Madina

Before I knew it, the afternoon had slipped away, and it was time for the three hour drive back to Marrakech. It would have been nice and have another fresh seafood meal at one of the outdoor restaurants. Or take additional time to explore the small art galleries.

I got a small taste of Essaouira which left me wanting more. The day trip to Essaouira from Marrakech was an easy and convenient way to see this city, but much of the day was spent in a car. Next time, I will spend a night or two in this charming little sea side town so that I can really take in its ambiance.

Even the fruit stalls are colorful

I did at least get to stick my toes in the Atlantic on the African continent.




You can read about more of my Morocco travels at https://quiltripping.com/category/travel/africa/morocco/page/2/.

Please note that my day tour to Essaouira from Marrakech was hosted by Time Out Marrakech. All content is my own.


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