What to Do in Essaouira - Morocco

Dubbed the 'wind city of Africa', Essaouira is a town infamous for its 'alizee', the strong wind that is felt both within and beyond the dazzling red walls and is well known for driving the locals and visitors crazy. It's a small price to pay, however, when the city offers such an array of culture and heritage at which to marvel. The midday reflection of the palm trees on the perimeter walls, the sound of the drums and Gnawa reverberating from houses and shops, and the unmistakeable buzz of the bustling medinas, serve to remind the traveller why they came here.

With Essaouira experiencing too strong a breeze to attract the sun, sand and sea tourists (for much of the year, sand is blown in the faces of those who dare to brave the shoreline), the city has been allowed to retain its character and charm without the threat of over-development from tourism. However, the alizee is bearable enough to still bring in the culture vultures whose visits the town so heavily relies on, and while the sun-seekers head further south to Agadir, windsurfers flock in their hundreds to Essaouira to take on the monstrous waves.

The rich cultural mix that Essaouira enjoys is down to its location: the seaside town is influenced by Europeans, southern-African Gnawa, and the two tribes between which it is sandwiched: the Arab Chiadma to the north and the Haha Berbers to the south. The beauty of the city attracts a plethora of artists from painters to sculptors; the town's flourishing art scene may have been responsible for some of the now international greats, but the port town's very own local woodworkers are also revered for their in-house craft skills and continue to receive praise from an abundance of visitors month after month.

Essaouira is a year-round seaside location, although the summer months see the town packed with Moroccan tourists and the beach somewhat crowded. Winter is the season when visitors get close to what the town is really about; the waves crash against the stunning city defences as the winds howl at full velocity. Whatever the time of year, the spirit of Morocco can be felt through the bustling restaurants, friendly townsfolk, fascinating museums and infamous souks; and disembarking the cruise liner on these stunning shores is a must for any intrepid visitor wanting to experience beauty and history in one of Morocco's relatively hidden treasures.


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