Born in England, travel was in my blood from the beginning.My family was on the road working in agricultural shows and from the start I was travelling all over England and Wales even when in a pushchair! Although I am sure I was kicking and screaming at least some of the time. ...Find out more!
When the Moroccan heat is almost too much to bear and the hassle of the souks becomes a short fuse to homicide it is time to take a break, a pause from the guide book driven madness and cocoon oneself in the familiar. Off to the beach then?
Long established as a refuge for weary travellers Essaouira comes as a pleasant relief for the first timer and as a bolthole for the veteran. Its cool alleyways and bracing Atlantic winds offer calm and refreshment with a dose of magical Moorish culture effused with a European twist.
Barely two hours from Marrakech on the new road and a seventy Dirham bus ticket, travellers find themselves transported to a bustling fishing port with a Spanish/Portuguese heritage that lives on in the cannon studded ramparts and seafaring traditions of its citizens.
Arriving by bus at the city gates one finds a teeming market and a phalanx of barrow boys eager to transport backpacks and luggage through the winding streets to your accommodation. For a price of course so bargaining is required although not to the level of other more intense locales.
The manager Masjid (or Magic Man as he is sometimes referred to) was very welcoming and keen to show off the hostel and its themed dorms including the Bob Marley room! The bar downstairs would not have been out of place in a Tex-Mex saloon and along with an honesty policy and satellite TV it proved a popular place to hang out and meet a few locals as well as other backpackers.
I found that early mornings were a great time to grab fresh croissants from the bakery and head to the main square for a coffee before wandering through the alleyways and souks, browsing the stalls and chatting with shopkeepers. The atmosphere was very relaxed and the pace of life less frenetic than the much touted imperial cities.
Once the lure of the souks wears off or you just want to cool down the beach is but a few minutes from the city walls. Local and tourists play football in the rough sand nearest the town where the less athletically inclined can drink a beer or a glass of wine and survey the bay from the two bars, one of which has a male oriented cave quality but the cheapest cold beers in town!
Adventure sports are starting to grow in town with Kite and Windsurfers taking advantage of the constant sea breezes along with quad biking and the ubiquitous camel trekking; never a dull moment.
If all that activity is making you hungry then a stop at the fish market for lunch is a treat; be advised that this is the one place in town where you will find hustles and hassle albeit good natured and fun.
Just off the main square a garden is fronted on two sides by a slew of fish restaurants each offering fresh fish of the day along with salads and cold drinks.
The smells from the barbeques are mouth-watering and the choice is amazing, choose carefully however as the prices and quality are not uniform. Walk past each restaurant, see the fish and take in mind their offer then return to the restaurant of your choice. Once you have settled in the whole process becomes more relaxing as you are looking out at the mayhem!
For the food lover Essaouira is starting to make its mark with a host of international style restaurants appearing, many with good wine selections; the budget traveller is well catered for with set menus and plenty of cheap eateries.
The city walls and cannon emplacements are a worthy testament to the history of Essaouira and once the day trippers have shuttled back to Marrakech and the likes a wander through the well preserved older quarters can feel as if the centuries have in between have faded away.