Essaouira, Morocco, the hottest destination

ESSAOUIRA… an exotic city on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast, and now, thanks to easyJet launching the first direct flight there from Britain, the hottest destination for holidaymakers seeking great weather in amazing surroundings.

As you fly in to Essaouira airport, the city is easily spotted – a soft arc of white and blue beside a ribbon of yellow sand. On the ground you’re soon aware of Essaouira’s mixed heritage. In parts it feels like a medieval European harbour city – bright blue fishing boats bob gently in the bay, and ancient fortified walls surround the town, a legacy of when it was a Portuguese town called Mogador at the start of the sixteenth century. Elsewhere is evidence of Essaouira’s Jewish past (at one point 40% of the population was Jewish). It doesn’t take too much searching to find its Moroccan soul though – veiled women walk through narrow streets, the sound of gnaoua singing is carried on sea breezes, and the Medina is the heart of the city.

One of Essaouira’s key attractions is the atmosphere. Less touristy than its sister seaside resort Agadir, but without the hustle and bustle of nearby Marrakech, it’s a place that has retained its character, making it an ideal place to visit if you want to get to know the real Morocco.

It’s a place of culture where the light and scenery have ensnared artists for centuries. There are art galleries throughout the city, and expert craftsman work wood into amazing pieces that make far better souvenirs than a stick of rock. Essaouira’s unique looks have grabbed the attention of many a filmmaker too – Orson Welles filmed Othello here, and Game of Thrones fans may notice that Essaouira shares more than a passing similarity with Astapor. It’s also a place for music fans, the massive Gnaoua Festival of World Music is held in Essaouira every summer and attracts over 450,000 people each year.

Essaouira may be on the Atlantic Coast, but the strong breezes that give it the nickname of ‘Africa’s Windy City’ means that lazing on the beach isn’t your only option. As well as lines of bronzed sun worshippers, sizzling supine on the sands, you’re also likely to find wetsuit clad kiteboarders, and people haring about in 4×4 rally cars. The trade winds that drew so many merchants and travellers from foreign lands in years gone by now attract the keenest windsports enthusiasts in the world.

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