Essaouira is one of Morocco's tourism hot spots, though travelers shouldn't expect this laid-back, coastal outpost to be overrun by tourism. Many locals live as their ancestors did, and fisherman still head out every morning to see what the Atlantic Ocean waters have to offer. The Essaouira locals are called Souiris, and they are known for being a warm and friendly people. This is just one of the reasons why Essaouira travel is so desirable. The relaxed nature of the town and the fact that it is the country's top windsurfing destination also help to make it an attractive place to hang out for at least a few days.
While Essaouira was founded in the 1700s, the site of the town was cherished long before then. The Phoenicians were among the first to settle the area that is Essaouira, and they arrived around the seventh century B.C. Their settlement was known as Migdol, and it became renowned in the ancient world for its purple dye. The rocky islands off the Essaouira coast are home to murex mollusks, which produce a purple dye that was very in vogue among the Romans and other peoples of influence in the ancient world. Cleopatra was a fan, and she reportedly dyed the sails of one of her boats purple before sailing to meet Mark Antony. The Romans reserved the color purple that was created by the murex dye for royalty. Interestingly enough, while the secrets of the dye production were thought to be lost in the mid-1400s, the practice survives to this day. While shopping on a vacation to Essaouira, travelers can purchase some of the dye or dyed goods, which is especially enticing for fans of the color purple.
Essaouira Morocco boasts a small medina that is relatively easy to navigate compared to the larger and more renowned medinas in Marrakech and Fes. For those who wish to add shopping to their Essaouira travel agenda, perusing the goods in the medina can be a joy. A number of woodwork shops turn out some highly coveted products, and other goods that are available include leather goods, jewelry, fabrics, and carpets. One of the reasons why shopping figures among the most enjoyable things to do in Essaouira is the fact that the shopkeepers in the medina tend not to hassle shoppers. This makes for a more relaxed shopping experience.
Essaouira travel generally revolves around relaxation, and while this town is still a traditional fishing port, it is also the country's finest seaside resort. Some travelers make a break for Essaouira Beach on a day trip from Marrakech during the warmer summer months. The relatively warm year-round temperatures mean that an Essaouira visit can be enjoyed regardless of the month, and travelers can avoid the summertime crowds if they choose to visit in the spring, fall, or winter. Winter can be an ideal time to engage in Essaouira travel, especially for those who wish to share the town with fewer fellow travelers. Since Essaouira Beach is almost always very windy and the currents are often very strong, it isn't the best for sunbathing and swimming, even in the summer.
Together with the beach in Agadir, Essaouira Beach is one of the top places to enjoy some fun in the Moroccan sun. Agadir, which can be found further south, is a better destination for beachgoers who are looking to swim and sunbathe, while the windy beach in Essaouira is ideal for windsurfing. Windsurfing isn't the only option when it comes to things to do at Essaouira Beach. Visitors can also arrange a camel or horse ride on the sand. The camel and horse owners can be insistent at times while trying to drum up some business, so travelers will want to be firm with their responses if they wish not to be bothered. The strip of desert outside of Essaouira is also a popular place for camel rides, though travelers who are serious about enjoying a camel trek will be much better off heading to Merzouga.
There isn't a bad time to engage in Essaouira travel, and when travelers aren't windsurfing at the beach or shopping in the medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they can enjoy the general sightseeing opportunities. The picturesque ramparts and overall atmospheric qualities of the town have encouraged filmmakers to drop in for some filming, one of the most renowned of which was Orson Welles. The streets and alleyways on the Essaouira medina can be seen in the classic Orson Welles version of Othello, which was released in 1952. A bust of Welles can be found just outside the medina walls, and it's worth checking out while in town.
In addition to being rather popular with filmmakers, Essaouira is also an attractive destination for musicians and music lovers alike. Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens figure among the most famous musicians to have passed through, and the town hosts what is known as the "Moroccan Woodstock." Held over four days in the end of June, the music festival in Essaouira attracts nearly half a million spectators. As such, anyone hoping to enjoy it will want to book a room at one of the Essaouira hotels well in advance.