When I went to Morocco, I had enough time to take a day trip to Africa’s Windy City and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Essaouira. This coastal city is popular with tourists because of its crescent beach which, when kissed by strong trade winds, become ideal for activities like surfing.
It takes 2 1/2 hours to get there from Marrakech, so gladly, the hotel organised a driver for me who made the trip fun.
We stopped by Tamri, to see the famous goats climbing Argan trees.
Apparently, farmers practice this strange feeding practice because the goats poop seeds which are pressed to make… yep, you’ve guessed it. The beautifying Argan oil.
We then stopped by a women’s argan oil cooperative to see how Morocco’s liquid gold is actually made. With Morocco still being quite a patriarchal country, these cooperatives help women get work as well as socialise.
The women pick the fruit and nuts from Argania trees themselves. These are de-shelled and the kernels are used to create a variety of argan oil-based products. Did you know that it takes about six days to produce a kilo of de-shelled kernels, and that over 2 kilos are needed to produce a litre of Argan oil? No wonder it’s priced so highly.
These kernels are then put into a hand-turned stone grinder to make paste, which are then pressed to extract the precious oil. The colour of the paste usually states which use they are for. Dark paste is usually made from roasted nuts and used for culinary purposes. The lighter paste is what’s used for cosmetics.
The products are displayed in a shop next door and by golly, I was really surprised at the amount of stuff you can use argan oil for. After buying a few cosmetic creams and oils, we continued our trip to Essaouira.
We got there soon enough. I was super excited to see the beautiful port, because you know… I have this thing with boats.
Essaouira is a fishing city. Just like Agadir, land-locked cities like Fes and Marrakech get their seafood from here. There’s a pungent smell from fishermen’s boats moored by the ports, but the sight is quite picturesque like scenes from movies.
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’d know that the gates to the Medina (or Skala de la Kasbah), particularly the tower, was used in that scene where Danaerys Targaryen met the Unsullied army. These walls were built to save the city from the roaring waves of the Atlantic.
Inside the Medina is a super chilled out version of Marrakech.
Shops display their products, but unlike the hectic souks of Marrakech, shopkeepers let you peruse their offerings sans the hardcore sales talk. Stuff here is much cheaper, too. I bought a couple of pots for half the retail price in the Red City.
My driver booked a restaurant outside of the Medina for late lunch/early supper.
Chalet de la Plage is a really cool restaurant run by a Frenchman who fell in love with Essaouira’s laidback vibes.
I’ll tell you more about it in future posts, but I have to say my monkfish skewers were crazy fresh and absolutely beautiful.
If you’re up for beach sports, go in July or August which are the windiest months. I’d recommend a stay at Les Jardins de Villa Maroc and Heure Bleue Palais. However, you don’t need to stay in Essaouira longer than a day and a half if you’re just out to browse.
It’s definitely worth going there for a day trip. It’s provincial yet modern, laidback but quite progressive. It’s charming with its sea-side quirks – and if you’re good with seafood, this is absolute heaven.
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Have you been to Essaouira?