Essaouira- The Allure of Mystery
How many people have heard of Essaouira? Most probably haven’t. And it’s to no fault of their own. Essaouira, after all, is a place drowned in obscurity- hard to know and even harder to find.
A few months prior to traveling to Morocco, I rode my bike to the local public library and perused some old Northern African history books dating back to 200 B.C. (This was going to be some serious investigative research.) I hoped to learn all I could to prepare myself for this exciting Moroccan adventure. In particular, I wanted to know more about Essaouira. And though information was scarce, the more I found, the more intrigued I became. I imagined a place in the heart of the Sahara Desert (stay tuned for a future blog post)- surrounded by sand dunes- beautiful, idyllic, picturesque- a dreamer’s dream.
According to one particular article, I found hiding in one particular history book- History’s Mysteries- People, Places, and Oddities Lost in the The Sands of Time– as the sun goes down in the evening and the sky clears- if luck is on your side you will see what few have seen.
If you hit the dunes at the right location at the right time, you will see a small well. There is a sieve lying at the bottom of the well. If you are able to retract the sieve, story and speculation has it that it will bless you with treasures beyond your wildest dreams- or more or less a few diamonds (talk about off the beaten path and a quick fix to money problems).
A word of caution: To lure the sieve up out of the well, you will have to make do with the rope that is already there. Now pay attention. This rope is entwined around the sieve and is very thin. It has been severely weathered over the years, so there is a good chance it may not be able to carry the weight of the sieve. Alas, it’s also tricky because you have to catch the sieve at just the right angle to be able to pull it up. The sieve itself is a little tattered and not completely whole so one side takes more of the weight. If you give the rope just the right amount of pulling force (not too hard, not too soft), you should be able to level out the sieve about midway through its ascent. The well is 250 ft deep so you’re looking at about 125 ft of potential problems. Once you hit that second 125 ft marker, you’re in the home stretch.
So yeah, we rode on camels- for 8 days- pitching tents at night- eating whatever we could lay our hands on- mostly cacti and sand (not very good), getting caught in Sahara sandstorms, and drinking our own pee (for just one day though)- really roughing it trying to find this well. Lo and behold, on the 8th day, we were given a clear sky as the sun made its exit for the eve…and we see the well appear before us. It exists!
You know what, forget what I just told you, it’s the wrong information. See, I’m having a hard time keeping my stories straight. It took me a LONG TIME to process everything I experienced in Morocco when I took the plunge back in 2017 (what is that, a year ago?). And I’m still confused. Did I like it? Did I hate it? Would I go back? Where was I? What was I doing? Am I really alive? Is this all a dream? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
^Case in point. WHY ARE THERE GOATS IN TREES?
So I’m going to tell the story of Essaouira the best I know how. What exactly is Essaouira, you ask? It is mainly just a coastal town in the western part of Morocco (approximately 5 hours’ drive from Casablanca).
And what’s so great about Essaouira? I’ll say a few words and then bombard you with a lot of pictures.
1. People casually play soccer on the beach (which is rampant seemingly everywhere else but the U.S. Why are we the only country that doesn’t worship soccer? Lame).
2. You will find all kinds of fresh fish to buy at the outdoor market– beware, the fish does give off a rather noisome odor, but it’s sure to taste good once cooked.
3. Apparently, a scene from Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 6 was filmed here (don’t quote me on the season or episode number). Now, would a trip to Morocco be complete without a Game of Thrones reference? Or, a Stranger Things reference? Or, a Star Wars reference? (Insert anything mainstream here).
4. The medina in Essaouira has more of a chill vibe, rather than a “you’re going to get lost and may get kidnapped vibe,” (this will most likely be expanded upon in later blog post on Fes).
5. There are music festivals. Here’s a link- Essaouira Music Festivals
6. The ocean, because who doesn’t like water?
7. Kite surfing in the ocean (never been, but it’s an option here).
8. If you’re a Bob Marley fan, there’s a lot of Rastafarian attire that you can buy.
9. You get the chance to see tons of seagulls.
Although we only stayed in Essaouira for a mere few hours, this was by far one of my favorite places in Morocco and I will go back to kite surf and lounge- once I’ve seen the whole world. Give me like 5 years.
Tours can run however long you want them to, but in case you need a reference point-mine was an hour. It cost about 20 dirham- this equates to 10 or so U.S. dollars. Plus, you need to add tip, so the total was approx. 25 dirhams. On the tour, we were told some history about Essaouira, which I don’t remember. We were also taken to look at some woodwork, which I didn’t really care about. Because everyone is exactly like me, I wouldn’t recommend getting a tour guide here. You’re relatively safe and yes, all medina’s can be hard to navigate- because they’re basically a maze- but there is a map you can pick up at the tourist information center upon your arrival.
On the other hand, if you think maplessness is for you, make a mental note of the orientation of the clock wherever you are…or maybe that’s Germany. Either way, I feel like you will be able to figure it out.
Readers, have you seen a trend yet? Maps literally seem to be the only halfway credulous advice I can give in my posts. Maybe I should just change my website name to www.wordpress.maps.blog and rename all my blog posts “Maps and Where to Find Them.” Or, “The Key to Leading a Good Life: Maps” or “What to do When You Don’t Know What to Do: Read a Map.” There’s a lot of different directions I can go (no pun intended), so I’ll think on that.
I don’t really have any weird stories about our stop in Essaouira, mostly because it was so short. And probably because I was still trying to figure out where I was to even pay attention to anything that may have seemed off.
But in all likelihood, at some point I was probably knocked unconscious, caged for a brief period of time, and subsequently used for some kind of weird science experiment in a secret lab. After all of this I’m guessing I was doused with memory loss pills, implanted with a tracker, and eventually set free to carry out some covert operation for who knows what/who/where/when. That would explain how I ended up next to an Orson Welles monument.
See more pictures below. What do you think? Does Essaouira look like a tourist trap? Would you make this stop a part of your Moroccan itinerary? Are you excited to hear about the rest of Morocco? Are you bored? Would you like some food? Should I go jump off a cliff? Should I give up writing for good?
Just seeing if you were paying attention.
The real title of this blog should be something along the lines of “The Cool Coast of Northwest Africa,” but I like to remember things my own way.
Stay tuned for more weird places you’ve never heard of, fellow adventurers!
“I like to remember things my own way. How I remembered them, not necessarily the way they happened.”– David Lynch