When I first went to Essaouira in 1969 it was a beautiful and quiet place to wander
through with its narrow streets and tall white houses. Having just revisited the town for 10 days (June 2005) for the annual
four day Gnaoua Festival of African and World Music, I can report that these days Essaouira is perhaps not so quiet, as tourists are
discovering its delights and souvenir shops and restaurants have been set up, but it is just as beautiful - a cross between
St Malo (in France), with its walled fortifications, and Tangier.
Essaouira is a stunning town plus it is clean and friendly. It has an
old walled medina, the ramparts of which can be explored and houses numerous ancient cannons pointing out to sea. Within
these red walls there is a fascinating collection of sights including restaurants, squares, lanes full of interesting shops,
and different tradesmen working behind open doors. The medina is situated on a headland with rocky coves to the northern
side, a very active fishing port (and a row of seafood restaurants) to the front and a wide sandy horseshoe bay to the
south. Just offshore there is a group of islets with ancient fortresses built on them. Outside of the medina, the new town
spreads inland and along the coast to the north and south.
Essaouira has been a trading post since the Phoenician era almost 3,000 years
ago. The ramparts surrounding the medina were designed by a French architect and, as with most of Morocco, there is a large
French influence with French spoken fluently by most of the population. Essaouira is equi-distant from Agadir and
Marrakech international airports (115 kilometres). It also has a small airport just outside of the town with flights to and