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E or Elegant
I never thought I would find myself in Morocco. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in visiting. It’s just a long, long way from Australia and not as immediately accessible as Asia or North America. A very long holiday in Europe and the UK changed all that. Suddenly there were budget airlines and exotic destinations within in easy reach both in terms of flight times and cost. Our friend Iain flew in from Australia and we met him at a hotel in the carpark of Gatwick Airport. Classy. From there we took the short flight to Morocco and spent two weeks travelling around the country via public transport. After a particularly long bus journey over the arid Atlas Mountains, we changed buses at the station in Marrakech and journeyed for several hours facing directly into the sun, to the coastal town of Essaouira. We were very over Morocco by the time we hopped off that bus. Salty sea air and a gentle breeze soothed these weary travellers. What a tonic.
In existence since antiquity, Essaouira is a coastal town that really came into its own in the early 16th century with the building of a fortress by the Portuguese. The ramparts, cannons and pepperpots of the fortress still exist, providing wonderful views over the Atlantic and the active fishing port. I have many favourite photos from my travel around the world however Essaouira seems to have more than its fair share at the top of the list.
Most of the city is still contained within the walls of the old fortress, creating narrow and atmospheric cobbled streets to wander around. Unlike the rest of Morocco with its highly patterned mosaics in jewel colours, the colours of Essaouira are white and blue. Berber Blue as it is known. Almost every door in the city is a shade of blue, as are the small fishing boats, window shutters and bicycles used to traverse the winding streets. There are mercifully, no cars in the walled city though there are still plenty of noisy scooters.
Once Casablanca took over as the main port in the early 1900’s, it returned to a quiet coastal town. If you look carefully, you’ll see a cat in the photo above. A sure sign that the coastal waters are teeming and the fishing port is thriving. Musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens visited during the 60’s, putting Essaouira on the map for tourism. It is still very much considered a backpacker destination rather than a resort town. It has a relaxed atmosphere and rakish charm that, after the bustle of Marrakech, lets you enjoy it even more. I would love to re-visit and hope one day I will.