CAMELS are grazing on wild grass that borders mile-long sands, then a fortress comes into check out, bathed in the golden rays of a rapid-sinking sunshine.
“That’s where by they filmed scenes from Sport Of Thrones,” the taxi driver casually informs me.
We ditch the car simply because the medina (aged walled city) is website traffic-free of charge, and I’m led by store-bordered alleys to Riad Baladin, a few conventional residences with central courtyards that have been turned into a boutique lodge.
Fountains burble amid soaring palms, and a welcome pot of clean mint tea is waiting for me on arrival.
Not for the to start with time that day I dilemma if it is actually probable that London Stansted is only a three-hour flight from here.
If you’ve not been to Morocco, the fortified town of Essaouira, which lies on the Atlantic Coastline, has a little little bit of almost everything that makes this region so alluring — wide sandy seashores, lively markets brimming with leather-based items and spices, delightful food items, and indigenous Berber tradition to examine.
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When the country’s most crucial ports in the 18th and 19th hundreds of years, the medina of Essaouira was named a Environment Heritage Internet site by Unesco in 2001, and its properties acquired a deserving restoration.
Locals will tut if you point out that their metropolis is referred to as Marrakesh-by-the-sea, simply because outside of a similarity in its metropolis partitions and flourishing markets, it is a lot much less touristy and a bargain in comparison.
In truth, you can continue to be in luxurious for below £100 for each night time.
Neither do you have to battle off persistent touts, which makes browsing in the souk and medina much extra enjoyable.
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It is chock-entire of small retailers, cafes — pop into the female-owned and operate The A few Small Birds for lunch — and artisan workshops (do not overlook Centre Artisanal D’Essaouira on Avenue Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah).
To make sure I’m soaking up the finest of every little thing on present right here, I consider a tour with Rachid from Tours By Locals.
We begin at the fish market place, unchanged for generations, wherever stray cats prowl and the town’s legendary blue fishing boats knock with each other blown by what the locals contact the taros, indicating ocean breeze.
There are prawns piled up into pink pyramids and crate on crate of sardines on ice.
I even location spiky purplish-blue sea urchins bobbing in a bucket, a 200kg bluefin tuna up for auction, and stallholders selling oysters as snacks to passers-by.
Rachid, however, is keen to divert my interest to an arched stone gateway.
“This spot, additional than wherever, is the essence of Essaouira,” he claims, pointing up to a Jewish Star of David, an Islamic crescent moon, and a Christian rose sculpted in aid on the stone.
Here, you can see that Essaouira has generally been a spot of tolerance and knowing, the place persons of diverse faiths get alongside.”
Tolerance is also why the place has extended attracted bohemian travellers (guide in for evening meal at a flamboyant restaurant these kinds of as Le Enjoy By Caravane and you are going to nonetheless find them), and the city’s most significant assert to fame, is that Jimi Hendrix stayed and wrote several tunes in this article in the summer of 1969.
Flourishing surf scene
You will listen to his new music enjoying from the abundance of quite rooftop bars, which includes Salut Maroc, which cannot be overwhelmed for a sundowner with its views about the ramparts and menu of common cocktails.
Nevertheless, Rachid does explain to me to take the claim that Hendrix jammed in this article with Bob Marley and Cat Stevens with a substantial pinch of salt.
Standard holidaymakers searching for practically nothing extra than a beach front and buffet vacation 108 miles further more alongside the coastline to the a lot less windy vacation resort of Agadir.
But what Essaouira has in its place is a thriving surf scene, and when the kite-, wind-, and board-surfers come ashore, there are a string of trendy seaside clubs and seafood dining establishments to maintain them content.
With a cooking course taken (reserve into L’Atalier to study how to make a standard tajine, a savoury stew), and my buys in the souk produced (spices, leather-based sandals, and trinket bins designed from indigenous thuya wooden), I head to Ocean Vagabond to soak up some sunlight.
The laid-again beach front club has a restaurant hooked up, serving treats and pizzas from a conventional wood-fired oven, but the real purpose men and women come is for the h2o sporting activities on give with kite-surfing, wind-surfing and wing-foiling all on web-site.
I go for the more peaceful selection of lounging on a sunbed.
With energetic French banter all all over me — a hangover from French colonial rule, the language is spoken broadly — and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc beside me, I could be in the South of France if it wasn’t for just one factor . . .
“Camel ride?” will come the hopeful shout, from a passing cameleer, who has skilfully caught my eye.
Now, you really do not get an offer you like that in Saint-Tropez.
Receiving THERE: Ryanair flies direct from Stansted to Essaouira-Mogador Airport from £17.01pp just about every way. See ryanair.com.
Remaining THERE: The Riad Baladin has rooms from £69 for each night, such as breakfast. See riadbaladin.com.
OUT & ABOUT: A four-hour historic and cultural tour with Rachid C from Excursions By Locals costs from £85 per tour, for up to 10 people. See toursbylocals.com.
A Moroccan cooking workshop at L’Atelier is from all-around £111, including lunch. See lateliermadada.com.