Essaouira: The Historical Jewel of Morocco’s Coastline

people walking on brown brick building during daytime

Essaouira, also known as Mogador until the 1960s, is a city on the Atlantic coast in the western Moroccan region of Marrakesh-Safi.

Essaouira’s history is as deep as it is fascinating, tracing its roots back to prehistoric times. The city was founded by a Carthaginian explorer named Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. As the centuries passed, Essaouira evolved and grew under the guidance of Sultan Sīdī Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh in the 18th century. He envisioned it as a significant international trading seaport, a vision that came to fruition as the city expanded and flourished.

By the end of the 18th century and into the first half of the 19th century, Essaouira had entered a golden age, becoming Morocco’s most crucial commercial port and diplomatic capital.

Essaouira Citadel
Ahmed.magdy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the city’s most notable features is the Medina of Essaouira, also formerly Mogador. This area is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an outstanding example of a late-18th-century fortified town. It was constructed following contemporary European military architecture principles but adapted to fit the North African context. Since its inception, Medina has served as a major international trading seaport, connecting Morocco and its Saharan hinterland with Europe and the rest of the world. Today, the Medina is a vibrant and bustling area filled with narrow streets and galleries and a lively fishing port.

Essaouira market
Photo by Vince Millett
Essaouira souk
JP.Neri, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Essaouira is a city steeped in history and culture, offering a plethora of attractions for visitors:

  1. Medina of Essaouira: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a late-18th-century fortified town, built according to the principles of contemporary European military architecture in a North African context. It has been a major international trading seaport since its foundation, linking Morocco and its Saharan hinterland with Europe and the rest of the world. The Medina is a maze of narrow streets, filled with vibrant galleries and a bustling fishing port.
  2. Essaouira Ramparts: Built in the 1760s, these historic fortifications were designed to protect the port from invaders. The ramparts offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. They consist of two levels: the ground level, which used to be military storage areas and is now filled with small shops, and the top level, which has bronze cannons and offers great views out to the sea, the harbour, and the Île de Mogador.
  3. Essaouira Beach: This vast, golden sandy beach is located just outside the old town. It’s perfect for a long walk along the promenade or a sundowner after a surf lesson. The waters here are very shallow, but the strong Atlantic wind brings waves that are great for surfing and kitesurfing. However, due to the winds of the Atlantic, Essaouira’s beaches aren’t ideal for sunbathing.
  4. Skala de la Ville: This 18th-century fortification overlooks the sea and boasts 19 copper canyons flanking each wall. It had a starring role in Game of Thrones as Astapor. In real life, these ramparts protected the medina from the crashing Atlantic waves. Today, it’s a peaceful place to take in the ocean views and a prime sunset-watching spot.

brown wooden bench on gray concrete floor near body of water during daytime

Local Beaches

Apart from the main Essaouira beach, there is also a beach to the north of town, known by the locals as Safi Beach, that is the perfect spot to escape the high-season crowds in July and August, whilst benefiting from cooling gusts off the Atlantic.

Flights to Essaouira and how to get there from the airport?

Essaouira is served by the Essaouira Mogador Airport, which is the nearest airport to the city, located 15km away. From the airport, you can reach the city centre by taxi, car, or shuttle. If you’re coming from Marrakech or Agadir, there are also options for bus or car travel.

Currently, to get to Essaouira Airport, you can fly from Manchester or London Stansted airports with either EasyJet or RyanAir twice a week.

Essaouira provides a variety of lodging options that cater to diverse budgets and tastes. Here are some top-rated hotels and resorts:

  1. Riad Chbanate: This 4-star hotel has earned a perfect score of 10 out of 10. It’s a great choice for travellers seeking comfort and quality service.
  2. Villa Quieta: Matching the high standards of Riad Chbanate, Villa Quieta is another 4-star hotel that boasts a rating of 10 out of 10. It’s known for its excellent hospitality and comfortable accommodations.
  3. Atlas Essaouira & Spa: For those seeking a bit of luxury, the Atlas Essaouira & Spa is a 5-star hotel situated right on the beachfront. It offers stunning views and top-notch amenities.
  4. Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa: This luxury resort is equipped with two swimming pools, a fitness centre, and a spa, ensuring a relaxing and rejuvenating stay for its guests.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *