Stepping back into the turn of the 60s and 70s, inspiring musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones to write some of their most iconic records, is what awaits those visiting the picturesque, humble and historic city of Essouira.
For a long time populated heavily by ‘take is at it comes’ hippies, this small costal bohemian mecca still possesses the highly English literate local population who were ‘there’ 40 years ago and as a result, able to speak the language so proficiently and psychedelically.
Standing at one end of the medina on the main street, you can see through to the opposite end making this medina easily navigable, however it is complete with the country wide narrow and winding derbs filled with Essouira specific Aladdin’s cave uniquities.
We buy our freshly caught Atlantic fish straight from the side of the incoming boats on the harbour then take the 30 second stroll to two bystading makeshift cafes, complete with barbeue, built into the harbor wall (pictured). We hand over our plastic bag filled with 30 dirhams of still wet sardines and take a seat amongst the large beached blue boats and basking cats. The crisped steaming fish arrives a few minutes later with a small plate of spicy tomato’s and a pot of warming absinth tea, all for 20 dirhams, then after saying grace (‘bizmilee’) we taste the wonderous delights of life in lazy Essouira.
Evening in Essouira is a hive of quality international restaurants, night market food shoppers and impromptu jams raining out from countless music envious shops. Commence your evening with a roof top drink aloft the classy blue and white Tarros Terrace or try the restaurant Elizir for a delightful culinary expeience among the very tasteful flea market décor and forever obliging waiting staff.
For a day trip from Marrakech Essouira is the perfect all year round stop (although sometimes a little windy in the winter months) and is so much more than the world acclaimed Gnawa music festival this year in its 16th appearance. Your Marrakech-riad will be able to help you with travel arrangements.
The road from Marrakech to Orika Valley’s Setti Fatma is long, straight and stunning. What starts as a long snowcapped penciled horizon above the steering wheel slowly begins to engulf the whole front and side windscreens as you approach the colossal High Atlas Mountains.
A small village that is not too far from your Marrakech riad and not too touristy Setti Fatma has beautiful cafes alongside bags of character, charm and relaxation plus is the door to 7 mesmerizing waterfalls. Aside from these joyous cascades, the routes up to the waterfalls are littered with small but wonderfully bohemian cafes, built intricately into the mountainous banks of the many streams coming down from the mountains. Intriguing looking artisans of varying craft are spaced randomly along the paths, many using very basic tools to make their trade.
During the summer, these cafes are a hive of local Marrakechi people escaping the medina for some pacifying tranquility whilst engulfed in these imposing yet very inviting mountains. Visiting these café’s is a blissful experience and a great way to spend a relaxing sunny afternoon alongside the wild monkeys and chilled ambient staff while the more energetic group members clamber the rocky paths up to the water source.
For an excursion from Riad Cinnamon, Riad Papillon, or Dar Habiba the Riad staff will be able to arrange a transport at very reasonable prices. (around 800 dirhams for two people to have exclusive use of an air-conditioned car with driver).
Hiring a guide for around 30 dirhams per hour to take you up to the waterfalls is a very good way to discover, in-depth, this fantasia. The shortest waterfall is reachable within an hour and a half, the longest is a whole day trip.
For a short day trip from marrakech, Sitti Fatima’s cafes make for a great visit from this grand historical city and a year round must see.