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Essaouira is a popular and iconic coastal resort in Morocco, long considered one of the best anchorages on the Atlantic coast. It has a fascinating history, having been occupied since prehistoric times. It has been a trading post since the time of the Phoenicians and, until recently, was known by the name of ‘Mogador’, still used for the island which partially shelters the bay from the strong marine winds, making it ideal for wind and kite surfers. The dye produced locally was used to colour the purple stripe of the togas of the Senators of Imperial Rome. Some of the archeological artefacts from excavations can be seen in local museums. The Portuguese built a fort in Essaouira in the 16th century and it was formerly the main port in Morocco until the development of Casablanca and Tangier. The walled Medina was built in the 18th Century and is now a designated World Heritage site. Essaouira is still a major fishing port as well as a centre for the sale of argan oil, which is unique to this part of Morocco and now in great demand internationally not only as a cooking oil but also for its many cosmetic and health benefits.


There are many attractions, including a nature reserve for the rare Eleanora Falcons that breed here, some of which live in the caves near to Villa Habibi. Essaouira has always attracted creative and performing artists, including visits made by Jimi Hendricks, Bob Marley, and other musicians in the '70s, and it hosts a number of music festivals, including the annual gnaoua and world music festival held in June. There are many arts and crafts practised locally, including traditional Berber artists and woodworkers who specialise in carving 'thuya', a hardwood that is used for highly decorative furniture and objects. Many film makers have been attracted to Essaouira because of its dramatic setting: Orson Welles filmed ‘Chimes at Midnight’ here and it's provided the setting for films such as ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and, more recently, as one of the locations for HBO's popular series ‘Game of Thrones’.

There is plenty to do and lots of places to shop, explore the souks in the Medina, sample the delicious and fresh local produce, including a wide variety of olives and spices. Find out more from:

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