El Fenn

Derb Moullay Abdullah Ben Hussain,
Bab El Ksour,

+212 524 44 1220
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A Day in Essaouira


With a colourful history encompassing Portuguese ‘occupation’ and pirates, the beach town of Essaouira today sports a laid-back vibe that feels more Mediterranean island than Moroccan mainland. 


On nearby Illes Purpuraires – a small island within touching distance of the town – shells were processed around the first century AD to extract a purple pigment that cost more than gold and was reserved exclusively for royal use. Next came Portuguese occupation in the early sixteenth century before the invaders abandoned the town. On key trading routes for sugar and molasses, the coastal town also soon became a haven for pirates. 



In more recent times, the Essaouira region has become known for its precious Argan trees because the oil extracted from the nut kernels is rich in antioxidants. And also, the region is important to the Moroccan wine industry.


Today everyone from wind and kite surfers to camel and horseback riders are all drawn to the blue and white-painted town, which lies on the Atlantic coast about 2.5 hours drive from Marrakech. It’s also a haven for arts and crafts fanatics with keenly priced rugs, raffia shoes and pottery in the souks, a handful of brilliant vintage homewares stores, and numerous art galleries. 




Grab a morning coffee and pastry at Patisserie Driss an Essaouira institution that opened back in 1928. It’s a great place to rub shoulders with local business owners who are always good for insider tips. 


For lunch, you can either take a 20-minute stroll along the shore to get to Ocean Vagabond where you can tuck into monster salads or juicy burgers on their shady driftwood terrace before stepping onto the beach. It’s great for parents and kids.  Or stay in town and head to Umia with its modern vibes and inventive menu. 


restaurants and cocktail bar in essaouira


If you stay late, then go to Taros for a sundowner. It’s so well-known it’s almost a cliché, but you can’t beat it for sipping a cold beer or a Moroccan rosé (skip the cocktails) as the sun dips over the horizon. Then feast on fresh fish at La Table by Madada.





The colourful, child-like paintings of Essaouira’s Art Naïf movement have recently gathered traction among collectors. Gallery Damgaard is one of the best sources in the medina, but you can find a bargain at the artists’ own studios during the town’s Sunday flea market.


Local argan oil, which in its edible form tastes nutty and faintly of vanilla, abounds but not all are created equal. Seek out those by social enterprise Sidi Yassine who focus not only on the quality of the oil, but also the welfare of the women who make it. 


Le Comptoir Oriental by Madada has an irresistible range of artisan-made Moroccan homewares from retro-inspired ceramics, to embroidered bed linens, to upcycled vintage furniture. Or head to Histoire des Filles for fashion, jewellery, and homeware accessories by the best local designers. 


Thuya wood is arguably Essaouira’s most famous export, but keep an eye out for walnut wood bowls (Bab Skala souks) too, which have a more rustic finish and translate beautifully into any home. 



ramparts in essaouira, castle walls


Head for a stroll along the Skala ramparts where Game of Thrones was filmed. Then head to the huge Atlantic beach where you can do anything from camel ride to quad biking and kite surfing. Or head 30 minutes out of town to the vineyards of Val d’Argan for a tour and a wine tasting. 

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