the city where anything is possible
"With the power of soul, anything is possible"
so sang Jimmy Hendrix in 1969 after spending one night that same
year in Essaouira, inspiring a flood of hippies and beatniks from
the four corners of the world to the region in search for
inspiration. These days Essaouira's fame has spread considerably
as well as kite and windsurfing enthusiasts itching to trip super
sized waves and exploit the power of cross shore trade winds that
blow practically all year round.
With its Vaubanesque ramparts and white medina built in 1764 by
French architect Theodore Cornut under the orders of Sultan
Mohammed Ben Abdallah, Essaouira is worlds apart from hustle and
bustle of Marrakech. Earning UNESCO world heritage status in 2001,
Essaouira or Mogador (as it was known under Portuguese rule
during the XVth century) is from being stuck in a time warp. this
city has preserved the panache of its unique trading post past
whilst developing a host of other attractions, from the
distinctive musical traditions originating from black Africa and
feted in June during the Gnaoua Festival to the top class hotel
accommodation and tourist facilities it has on offer. The city's
wealth of craftsmanship skills, the buzz of it souks, its
majestic hinterland and argan oil cooperatives (The argan tree
being unique to this part of the world and boasting UNESCO world
heritage listing) - all these factors have equal billing in
endorsing Essaouira as a flagship destination within the kingdom.
No surprise then that a gaggle of artists, writers, musicians and
film directors have flocked to Essaouira in the footstep of Orson
Wells who filmed Othello here in 1952. Your turn now to step in
their shoes as you discover the fishing harbour with its
vibrantly colored boats, the Sqala with bronze canons aimed at
the Atlantic, Thuya wood marquetry and cabinet-making workshops
with their subtle woody smell wafting over the city.
The Medina with its straight roads and art galleries boasting
Souiri exhibitions, Dane Frederic Damgard's gallery (the oldest)
and espace Othello gallery housed in a former warehouse. En route
you might even bump into a woman swathed in a heavy white cotton
haïk for protection against the wind - a real yet strangely
surreal sight. Follow the advice of Moroccan author Edmond Amran
el-Maaleh: "Should your gaze fall in the city and its
stunning union with the sea when strolling along the Skala
ramparts, simply roll with the enigma of it all".
If you are lucky enough to be in Essaouira in June, you will be
at the right place to enjoy the "Gnaoua and world music"
Festival during 3 days in the last decade of June. During this
Festival, Gnaoua and maalems and top ranking international
musicians will do their thing to the haunting rhythms of karbabs
(crotals), guembris (3-strings lutes) and gangas (drums). A
mesmerising experience that draws an audience of thousands every
year to a city that transforms into a huge open air concert for a
couple of days.
Essaouira is also a place that beats to the rhythms of the sea.
And water sports enthusiasts have 10 kms of beach with sweeping
trade winds for surf related fun. The area's first golf course
at Domaine de Mogador, a seaside resort currently under
construction, opened last January. In a setting of argan groves
with the dunes of Essaouira and the Atlantic coastline as a
backdrop, this particular golf course has been created by Gary
Player and designed to be in perfect harmony with the eco-system.
Essaouira is a city where everything is possible, where all
desires, yearnings and expectations can be met. French author
Paul Claudel understood this only too well when he wrote the
following in the satin Slipper: "There is only one
particular castle I know of where it would be a bonus to be
locked up. Death would be preferable to giving back the keys.
That castle is Mogador in Africa".