From Marrakesh, we travelled west 200km to the Atlantic coast and the small port city of Essauoira. This is a laid-back, friendly, beach town that became famed as a hippie hangout for surfers and expat artists in the 20th century.
Essaouira is known for its strong “Alizée” trade winds, making it the go to spot for surfers, wind surfers and kite surfers. There is a beautiful long beach for all the sporting activity and for people to just enjoy the sun and sand. Even though, at this time of year, the water is still a bit cool there were still lots of people on the beach, from fully clothed Muslims to Europeans with normal beach wear.
Essaouira is also known for its connection to the pop legend, Jimi Hendrix. There is a lot of myth surrounding a visit he made here in 1969 and out of that, a whole cottage industry formed. People love to tell you about him and there are many tales and fictitious stories about what he did here. Allegedly he stayed at particular riads, which he didn’t, ate in restaurants that did not even exist at the time, and jammed with local musicians with a guitar he never traveled with. There is a café in Diabat, a short biking distance from Essaouira, dedicated to him. With not a lot of sites in Essaoira and lots of time, we rented bikes one day and found the restaurant.
The most impressive thing about the medina here is that it is protected by 18th century seafront ramparts called the Skala de la Kasbah, which were designed by European engineers. Old brass cannons line the walls, and there are wonderful views fishing harbor and surrounding sites.
What was special about Essauoira for us, was the time we spent with our hosts. On arriving, there was one another traveller from Spain and one of our hosts, Elena, took us to the main square to sit and have tea and chat. Another day, Pierre, the other host, took us to see the new Riad they are renovating and also took us to an area of the medina with great food that only the locals go. In the evening, they often entertained with friends and jammed with guitars and singing. We were always included. It was quite wonderful.
And what about the bird poo? Well, while wandering with Pierre one day, he and I got “showered” from above. He got the worst of it with most of it landing on his head, I just got a bit on my shirt and hand. Pierre says it’s a sign of luck. I’m not so sure about that. I think it’s something you say to make yourself feel better about being pooped on by a bird!