Morocco :: Essaouira

[trip style = urban + luxury]

Editor's Note: As Morocco Month comes to a close, we leave you with our final North African destination: Essaouira, an ancient and fortified city by the sea. For a look back at the rest of our Morocco series, see Casablanca,Savoring the SaharaLa Gazelle d'Or and hotels in Taroudant and a beauty lesson inargan oil.

The final hurrah in my Morocco itinerary pulled me back to shore from Taroudant by way of a four-hour, backcountry drive over grass-covered hills, past grazing goats, wineries, argan oil collectives and gas station-restaurants---a thing in Morocco (would you like a crêpe with your gas?).

Essaouira is a magic, moody place at the intersection of ancient and modern. Changing hands over centuries due to its strategic position on the Atlantic coast, there's a near-visible mystique that fills the air. At the same time, there's a playful spirit, given it's a beach town and popular weekend destination for the well-heeled from Marrakech.

Within the French-designed fortifications life teems with the energy of thousands of conversations and transactions. Outside the walls, a major fishing port gives way to a far-reaching beach decorated in dunes, kite-boarders and camels.

Every night after dinner, I'd retreat into the warmth and time-tested luxury of L'Heure Bleue Palais hotel, built into Essaouira’s medina walls. Feeling like I needed to match the old-school Africa allure---think: dark wood, mosaics, deep-red carpets, candlelight turndown---at cocktail hour I donned a draping blue dress and strolled past the palm-coated courtyard to the drink den, one of the most epic places I've ever sipped a spirit.

Accompanied by a tumbler of Jack Daniel’s and knowledge that the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley tested a tipple in the riad’s wood-paneled, leather-bound room, I came to the conclusion that Morocco has been luring luminaries since the Berbers walked through the Western Sahara some 5000 years ago.

Trip Styler Tip: When you go to Morocco, you'll hear the terms riad and dar a lot. The most simple way to decipher between these housing/hotel options is: A riad typically has a four-season garden and a fountain, a dar does not.

Photos

Visiting a women's again oil collective and learning to crush the kernel---which produces a peanut butter-consistency paste---with a granite spool. Find Assouss Argan producing organic and handmade products from argan shampoo to skin cream about 20 minutes outside of Essaouira.

Visiting a women's again oil collective and learning to crush the kernel---which produces a peanut butter-consistency paste---with a granite spool. Find Assouss Argan producing organic and handmade products from argan shampoo to skin cream about 20 minutes outside of Essaouira.

Heure Bleue Palais

Heure Bleue Palais

Gorgeous tassel-clad room keys

Gorgeous tassel-clad room keys

My room's safari-styled sitting space

My room's safari-styled sitting space

I love it when my soap is presented as gift, you?

I love it when my soap is presented as gift, you?

The palm-dressed courtyard, where I spent a lot of time.

The palm-dressed courtyard, where I spent a lot of time.

The drink den of ALL drink dens

The drink den of ALL drink dens

Fishing {then tourism} is Essaouira's largest industry

Fishing {then tourism} is Essaouira's largest industry

Port of Essaouira

Port of Essaouira

Inside Essaouira's medina 

Inside Essaouira's medina 

Age-old walls 

Age-old walls 

Souk

Souk

Fish market essaouira

Fish market essaouira

Attempting to buy a vintage Moroccan carpet. To show its made with real wool, the shop patron burned the edge with a lighter to reveal it was not synthetic material.

Attempting to buy a vintage Moroccan carpet. To show its made with real wool, the shop patron burned the edge with a lighter to reveal it was not synthetic material.

I started with 30 carpets. They were all placed on the floor by the carpet master. I whittled the lot down to eight winners. Then, I learned the cost was a few thousand for all of them. Buying a carpet in Morocco is like buying art. It takes a lot of time, consideration, cash and you must evaluate the apple of your eye in multiple exposures and perspectives before making a confident buying decision.

I started with 30 carpets. They were all placed on the floor by the carpet master. I whittled the lot down to eight winners. Then, I learned the cost was a few thousand for all of them. Buying a carpet in Morocco is like buying art. It takes a lot of time, consideration, cash and you must evaluate the apple of your eye in multiple exposures and perspectives before making a confident buying decision.

Ladies at sunset

Ladies at sunset

Meet James Bond. My sweet sunset ride.

Meet James Bond. My sweet sunset ride.

As you do in Morocco: Ride camels on the beach at sundown.

As you do in Morocco: Ride camels on the beach at sundown.

[photos by @tripstyler taken a guest of tourism morocco]