Essaouira , the enchanting seaside city of Morocco , is at once familiar and exotic with its fortified walls, fishing harbour and seagulls soaring and screaming over the town. At first it seems as though this could be a town in Brittany, France – not such a strange thought given that Essaouira was designed by the same Frenchman who designed Brittany's most famous port town, Saint-Malo. And yet once you enter the walls, it is also infinitely Moroccan: narrow alleyways, the smells of fish guts and damp sea air mixed with aromas of spices and thuya wood, women in white haiks (veils), midday palm-tree shadows on red city walls, and the sound of drums and Gnawa singing reverberating from shops and houses.
The enchanting seaside town of Essaouira has a special appeal. It's smaller and less frenetic than Marrakech and Casablanca, and virtually unspoiled by modernity and commercialization. Those looking for a more "authentic" Moroccan experience come here to explore the historic 18th century fortifications and colorful alleyways, to wander through the shops, souks and art galleries, and to relax in the beachside cafes.
Moroccan families escape to Essaouira during the summer to avoid the heat of the interior, while international tourists come year round to surf, laze on the beach and enjoy the easygoing vibe – which is why the town is also known as Morocco's premier seaside destination.