Discover Essaouira and its region as well as Sidi Kaouki and Moulay Bouzerktoun

 

The history of Essaouira goes back up to the VIIIth century BC. The Phoenician made stopover on the island of Mogador when they came down towards the equator.

The real founder of the city was sultan Alaouite Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah who entrusted the plan to Théodore Cornut (pupil of Vauban) in 1760. Essaouira, also known as Mogador, is an exceptional example of a late-18th-century fortified town, built according to the principles of contemporary European military architecture in a North African context. Since its foundation, it has been a major international trading seaport, linking Morocco and its Saharan hinterland with Europe and the rest of the world. Essaouira was laid out by a French architect who had been profoundly influenced by the work of Vauban at Saint-Malo. It has retained its European appearance to a substantial extent.

After the closing of the harbor at Agadir, Mogador gained in importance. Many Jewish merchants settled here. The caravans from Timbuktu brought ivory and gold in exchange for leather salt and sugar.

Consequently, when the French occupied Timbuktu early in the 20th century, Essaouira lost its eminence as a centre for trade.

 

More recently, in the 50s and 60, Essaouira became the privileged refuge of the rockers (Cat Steven - Jimmy Hendrix) who came to get fresh ideas there, and Orson Welles shot his famous movie ' Othello ' there.

If Essaouira is one of the most charming cities of the Moroccan Atlantic Coast, it’s certainly thanks to its climate moderated all year long, to the kindness of her inhabitants, to her cultural and architectural heritage, but especially to the unique atmosphere which reigns in its alleys, swarming of curious onlookers, fishermen, storekeepers and craftsmen, in which come to get involved artists of the whole world.

 

Essaouira and Moroccan Art

WOOD CARVING

The Thuya tree is a short scrub-like conifer indigenous to Morocco and particularly from Essaouira area. The exceptional natural patterns in the grain are only found in the root of the tree. This wood has been coveted since Roman times and in modern times extracts from the tree are used in both homeopathy and aromatherapy.

For most visitors to Morocco, the best place for a good choice of thuya wood objects at reasonable prices is probably Essaouira, which is the nearest big outlet to the main producing villages.

The medina is home to many small arts and crafts businesses, notably cabinet making and 'thuya' wood-carving , both of which have been practiced in Essaouira for centuries.

 

JEWELLERY

You will find the jeweller’s market near Mohammed El Gorry street. When the Jewish community in Essaouira was strong, this market was famous for its quality output.

However, since most of the Jewish silversmiths’ departure, there are but a few tradesmen who still make their own jewellery.

 

WOOL CARPETS

Buying a Moroccan carpet can be one of the more pleasurable shopping experiences. You should first visit one of the larger shops where you can see a range of quality and styles.  Carpet designs are extremely varied so look for something that pleases you and will look good at home. The variety is endless. Quality is a very important issue especially where price is concerned.

The Berber carpets are the most famous.  These are usually handmade, with naturally dyed wool.  Colours range from bright and cheerful to subdued to faded. Some carpets are older, and some are antique.

 

THE ZELLIGE

The art of Zellige flourished at the Hispano-Moresque period. It then appeared in Morocco in the 10th century using nuances of white and brown colours.

Blue, red, green and yellow colours were introduced in the 17th century. The old enamels with the natural colours were used until the beginning of the 20th century and the colors had probably not evolved much since the period of Merinids.

This framework of expression arose from the need of Islamic artists to create spatial decorations that avoided depictions of living things, consistent with the teachings of Islamic law.

Wandering along Essaouira’s streets you will find many examples of these zelliges’ usage, both for public spaces and for houses’ renovation.

 

 

 

GNAOUA MUSIC

 

Gnaoua music has its origins in sub-saharan Africa. Black slaves from Senegal, Sudan and Ghana, who were taken to Morocco in former centuries brought it here.
Their ecstatic dances remind of the voodoo cult. Gnaoua music has a great socio-psychological importance, as it is supposed to heal diseases.
In Essaouira the tradition of Gnaoua music dates back to the 16th century, when Sudanese slaves were brought to the Haha territory. This is the first Gnaoua of Essaouira and its language is berber.
 
In 1760, with the construction of the harbour and the medina, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah brought a lot of slaves to Essaouira. Their songs tell about the painful march through the Sahara desert and the sufferings of slavery “Ouled Banbara”.

Anyway, Gnaoua music has always been a very lively music and seeing a Gnaoua performance is an unforgettable experience.
The Gnaoua festival of Essaouira, which is held during the second part of June, is maybe the best example for a modern Gnaoua performance, which still holds on tight to its origins.
 
 

ARGAN OIL

 

Argan oil is an oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree, endemic to Essaouira area, that is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties. The tree, a relict species from the Tertiary age, is extremely well adapted to drought and other environmentally difficult conditions of southwestern Morocco.

At the Cooperatives, Berber women sit on the floor with rough rectangular stones between their knees cracking pits with rounded rocks. Each smooth pit contains one to three kernels, which look like sliced almonds and are rich in oil. The kernels are then removed and gently roasted. This roasting accounts for part of the oil's distinctive, nutty flavor. It takes several days and about 32 kilograms of fruit - roughly one season's produce from a single tree - to make only one liter of oil. The cosmetic oil, rich in vitamin E and essential fatty acids, is used for massage, facials and as an ingredient in anti-aging cream.

Most of the oil is bottled pure for cooking, as a dressing on salads, meat or fish or simply as a dip for bread.

 

 

MINT TEA

Mint tea is a flavoured tea prepared in northern Africa and in Arabian countries. Mint tea is central to social life in Maghreb countries. The serving of mint tea can take a ceremonial form, especially when prepared for a guest. Mint tea will be served to you upon arrival by our dedicated staff.

 

Moulay Bouzerkthoun and Sidi Kaouki, close vincinity of Essaouira

A few kilometers away from Essaouira, the beaches of Moulay Bouzerktoun and Sidi Kaouki are also a must. These two beaches constitute magnificent spots for all the addicts of water sports, in a wilder environment than Essaouira beach.

 

Moulay Bouzerkthoun

By leaving from Essaouira northward, you will find fishermen's small village, put on an steep strike. The presence of a renowned marabout made, in the course of time, one of the stages of the moussem of regraga.

 

Become a spot very appreciated by the sportsmen amateur of sensations strong in term of water sports, it is a meeting place for the amateurs attracted by surfing, windsurfing and kite surf. Waves and wind are always supported enough there. On the other hand, it isn’t a pleasant place for sea swimming in family or sunbathing.  

 

To Moulay Bouzerktoun, you will have the surprise to discover a small sandy beach with a rocky platform insuring you a regular wave. The wind is often more supported than in Essaouira. It is a well-known spot for amateurs of kitesurf, for windsurfing or for surfing, to recommend rather to those who master already well the technique.

 

SIDI KAOUKI

A stone’s throw from the Essaouira beach, by taking the direction of the South, rest a Berber village still protected in border of a very big beach, rather natural.

 

The name of this village of fishermen and shepherds comes from holy premises of the end of the 19th century and the grave of which is still visible in an extremity of this infinite beach. At the back of the beach, you will find a forest of argan trees, endemic tree of the region, and the mimosas.

 

To restore you on the spot, a wide pallet of small restaurants can offer to your sharpened appetite any sorts of salads, grills or tagines, to consume in any simplicity but with a panorama to take the breath away of you, so much the view is widened and without any limitation.

 

On the immense beach of Sidi Kaouki (4,5 km long), all the sportsmen, whatever is their level, will have some pleasure, as well to play in the regular waves which come to lick this part of the still wild coast that for the amateurs of water sports. Perfect for all the levels of water and wind sports, from the learning of techniques to the category of the experts. On the other hand, the bathing can be difficult because rollers are really present and relatively powerful.