Situated on the Atlantic coast, beautiful, breezy Essaouira is a relaxed, vibrant alternative to the frenzied pace of Morocco’s other coastal cities. Known as North Africa’s “wind city”, Essaouira’s famously strong winds make the city a popular destination for windsurfers, kitesurfers, and kiteboarding, but visitors less inclined towards extreme water sports will still find plenty to enjoy in this charming seaside destination. For one, these same winds keep the city relatively cool even in Morocco’s hot summers!
Film buffs may recognize Essaouira from Orson Welles’ film Othello, and for being a replica of Jerusalem in the movie Kingdom of Heaven. The massive stone fortifications featured in those films were constructed by the city’s Portuguese occupants in the 18th century, and still surround the well-preserved medina, itself a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A renowned art city, Essaouira boasts several art galleries and boutiques exhibiting the works of local painters and sculptors, but wood carving is the city’s main craft, and in the souk, the air is fragrant not only with spices, but with the particular scent of thuya wood.
Essaouira also vibrates to the rhythm of music, with Gnaoua percussions often to be found playing on the ramparts. The annual Gnaoua Festival of World Music in June sees the city come alive with musicians from all over the world coming to entertain hundreds of thousands of guests over four days.