First Impressions of Essaouira
I am not a travel writer so this is very much my own personal experience. For me, if I am honest Essaouira was a bit of a shock. Probably due to my naivety and being European, from what I had read I expected a quaint little seaside town which Essaouira is most certainly not. Its Medina was extremely busy which for some reason I had not expected.
The fact that I was personally looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh very much placed a certain shape on my visit and orientated my choices. I tended to veer more towards the rest and relaxation route and that is not to say you could not orientate it towards a more activity filled journey if you felt so inclined to do so.
I took the Suprataours bus from the Supratours bus station which is just beside the Train station in Marrakesh. I can highly recommend the service, extremely efficient, the buses were modern and clean with ample air conditioning, a must as I was in Morocco in August.
The trip took three hours which with a short minute break comfort stop flew by. I took the 8am bus from Marrakesh and was in Essaouira just after 11.
Staying and eating in Essaouira
On arriving at Essaouira I started my journey at La Caravan, which I would highly recommend as it is just beautifully eclectic, owned by an artist and it shows.
I then went to the Villa de Maroc which I believe from reviews I have read is beautiful to stay in, however I was drawn to the fact that the quiet courtyard provided a nice quiet respite from the Medina. For me, one of the major issues for my trip has been that I eat predominantly vegetarian and unfortunately the only meal was a vegetarian couscous which I found slightly bland. If I was to do lunch again I would have eaten at La Caravan which offered a vegetarian menu.
Shopping in Essaouira
I have to say that I really enjoyed the shopping in Essaouira. It was very much in keeping with the seaside feel, the palette was natural utilising extremely soothing and chic natural fabrics including cotton and linen and you can pick up lots of fantastic and extremely wearable pieces.
The fabric and hues means that the pieces can be used to create a great casual wardrobe, easily translateable to any location and at a fraction of the cost (after a bit of haggling) that they would cost elsewhere.
Favourites included extra long light cotton scarves in the beautiful Moroccan cobalt blue.
Fabulous linen casual wear sitting side by side with gorgeous naturally died scarves all both of the lighter and heavier variety.
A natural extra large shawl made of unbleached sheeps wool.
The beautiful traditional orange water can also be picked up throughout Essaouira for next to nothing.
Having my purchases in hand, I found respite from the crazy at L’Heure Bleue, both the roof terrace and the ground floor lounge offer a nice respite from the crazy and a reviving mint tea.
I personally had no interest in staying the Medina for too long and was very glad of the tranquility of the Tangaro where I happily spent a day lounging about in the soothing surrounds. Once I had bought my few prized purchases, I pretty much restricted my visit to lounging about at, a few strolls on the beach and the odd coffee at L’Heure Bleue however again, there was certainly so much more that you could do if your visit was specifically directed at Essaouira.
Staying at the Auberge Tangaro
After I had dipped my toe (albeit my baby toe into what Essaouria had to offer, I was quite happy to find some quite respite at the Auberge Tangaro.
I absolutely adored the Tangaro, it was one of the highlights of my whole stay in Morocco.
When I arrived I went straight down to the gorgeous little cafe by the pool and happily divided my time between there, one of the various hammocks and the terrace area before making my home in the little indoor reading room filled to the brim with books and magazines and which I had entirely by myself. The Tangaro has this extremely cute sixties vibe about which is very endearing and homely.
Literally made for lounging about, it is quite impossible to not become so relaxed at the Tangaro to be quickly bordering on the point of sleepy. Apart from the spa there is a beautiful terrace on which to lounge about, a hip little cafe and if like me you are of the pale pale skinned variety (and bear in mind I was in Morocco in August) a little indoor haven for reading.
I treated myself to a three course meal which was delicious and then to my room which reminded me that when Moroccans do minimalism well they really do minimalism well, it was great.
One of the great things about the Tangaro is its shape, some of the bedrooms open on to the central terrace area and they each have a table outside which means that you can also happily loll about outside your room while not being completely anti-social if that takes you fancy and which is what I did until I felt sleepy and finally and happily went to bed.
I also thought it was just excellent value. I did not leave the place for the whole day and night I was there and my entire bill including my room, my three course meal, breakfast and various coffees etc. throughout the day came to 125 euros.
Back at the Medina I stayed at Jack’s Apartments. The apartments are incredibly popular and its not hard to see why. They are extremely clean and well kept. The rooms have a hip beachside vibe very in keeping with Essaouira. The roof terrace in the apartments I was in ran to three levels, with the top one enclosed which means you could sit in if you wanted to and also that even if the apartments were busy you were bound to find a little niche with a sea view all to yourself.
The only issue with Jack’s Apartments I had was that there are in fact 3 separate buildings with doorways marked Jack’s Apartments – it appears to span a few different buildings. Just something to bear in mind if, like me you use google maps to get from A to B. The other issue was picking up the keys, this is not at the actual Jack’s Apartments so there is a certain measure of time spent getting to the place where you sign in, getting your keys and then getting to the building. This is a tiny detail in the broad scheme of things and absolutely would not stop me from staying there again, rather something to bear in mind in terms of logistics.
All in all Jack’s Apartments was just excellent value, my room was great, a nice spacious size and so pretty and at 64 a real steal.
So what would I have done differently?
For me I feel Essaouira was what you made of it, and could be as bawdy and fun or relaxing and quiet as you wanted it to be. Having come from the madness of Marrakech, I wandered around the Medina for a bit and found some fabulous purchases however, once I had found my few purchases that was me done with the Medina as I had already been medinaed to death in Marrakesh and was looking for a change of scene.
If I had my time again I would have done 2 nights in the Tangaro with 1 night in the Medina. I found that I totally chilled out in the Tangaro in a way that I just could not in the Medina. Now I will say I would not have missed my time in the Medina because I got the best shopping of my trip there and at a tiny fraction of what the clothes would cost in Europe and the natural aesthetic translates into a casual wardrobe extremely easily – you know you are going to be using these pieces for life.
I did not have the time or the inclination to properly explore but it appeared to me you could pick up some fabulous leather pieces be it shoes, bags or jackets etc very cheaply.
Finally as much as I would love it to have been, I was just too exhausted to shop for household as the logistics of trying to haul it about and getting it back to Europe.
However, if you were savvy about it and did a bit of homework, maybe checked with your hotel to see if they would take care of transport and delivery for you, you could absolutely. Kit out an apartment or house in that fabulous minimalist Moroccan Tangaro style incredibly easily and cheaply.
Case in point, I came across the exact cushions you can see in the picture of my room in the Tangaro at a stall in the Medina and they were literally being sold for peanuts. Again if you are looking to furnish somewhere, bearing in mind the cheap flights from Europe now to Morocco and the fact that it is actually a surprisingly short jaunt – about 3 1/2hours from London it might be worth thinking about combining a bit of decorating hunting with a trip.