I fell head over heels in love with Essaouira, the gorgeous seaside town that was the repite from the chill of my sojourn in the High Atlas Mountains and where lunch came straight out of the ocean.
I could happily live in Essaouira with its orderly Medina and lovely eateries tucked away in the side streets. And the gelato sold on the Square, where I had the closest thing ever to Bangkok’s famed coconut ice-cream.
The quaint harbour reminded me of Kalk Bay back home, but with a North African backdrop 🙂 It’s little wonder that Essaouira was chosen as a location to film Game of Thrones.
I could do without the seagulls though. Their loud shrieks throughout the night kept me awake. So did the accoustics in the Riad where the one towel they gave me was so thin it was fraying.
Four years ago I made a rule that I will never visit the same place on my Bucket List twice because there are so many other places I still want to see. I made one exception after visiting Chobe in 2015. And I will make another for Essaouira 🙂
Travelling through Morocco you soon sense that the architecture is a cosmopolitan cultural blend reflecting the country’s long and rich history of rulers and invaders – both Arabic and European – and that the doors in particular are very much a gateway to another world. In Essaouira, once you are able to take your eyes of the array of blues, there’s some incredible history to discover. And not all of it is blue.
For centuries Moroccans of Jewish and Muslim decent lived peacefully side by side in cities such as Essaouira, Fes and Marrakech, which is evident in the hallmarks on their doors. These range from unique patterns and symbols to Jewish stars, some of which are even dated and evoke centuries of history.
But many of these Jewish familes fled the mellahs – the Jewish district in Arab cities – for Israel following the Six Day War. Some have never returned and many houses like the one in Essaouira pictured below are locked up and have been left to deteriorate. (Note the Star of David in the plasterwork above the arch, alongside the fading mosaics).
Other more modern doors bear Moorish style motifs, delicate mosaics and ornate and interesting door knockers.
Whether they are made of wood or weather-beaten steel, they all add to the charm of Essaouira.
Then if you can drag yourself away from the doors for a few minutes you will find yourself in the middle of a typical street scene that could be anywhere in Morocco – the inescapable washing and arches and cats and faded reminders of a byegone era.
There is something magical about Essaouira that sets it apart from other Moroccan cities. From the palm-lined avenues of the fortified medina with it’s orderly labyrinth of alleyways, to the tranquil harbour where you can watch fishing nets being mended and traditional boats being built, to the most amazing sunsets, all while indulging in the best gelatto in Morocco. In winter 🙂
And then there are the doors – in every hue of blue you can imagine. I found them absolutely captivating.