We drove north along the coast road towards Essaouira (Essa-wee-ra), eighty miles from Agadir. It took us four hours to make the journey following the narrow road that ribboned inland and climbed up to a thousand feet before dropping down again to the coast. We had one scarey moment as we rounded a blind bend and saw a speeding truck coming towards us, swerving to avoid two donkeys in the road. Everyone braked and a collision was avoided – and the wretched donkeys just carried on grazing.
Essaouira’s crumbling fortifications dated back to the 17th century and, with its towers and ramparts, its narrow streets and its main square with cafés and restaurants, it was a popular tourist attraction. It also had a modern promenade with a wide sandy beach, well known for kitesurfing and windsurfing. The town was one of the busiest fishing harbours in Morocco – they caught sardines, herrings, mackerel and hammerhead sharks. Back in the 1960s, it was a bit of a hippy hangout – Jimmie Hendrix stayed there and in the 1950s Orson Wells made the film “Othello” in the town.
We arrived mid afternoon and found the ancient port teeming with visitors. A film crew was camped on the harbour wall and a large area was cordoned off for their use. Jostling for space were boatbuilders and repairers, fisherman unloading and selling their catch, others were putting bait on hundreds of fishing hooks, a flying army of seagulls vying for the fish scraps with hundreds of hungry cats prowling the ground. It was a warm but breezy day and we enjoyed watching young lads jumping into the water.
Essaouira was known for its open air fish restaurants by the main square where you purchased your seafood from a large display. The food was then cooked and served to you on outside tables. We had a late lunch of a bream, a bass, sardines and calamari, served with salad, bread, chips and water – the cost was £25.
Our overnight parking spot was in the car park right next to the main square, and cost £8. There were optional extras too – £4 to have the van washed and two more charges of £1.50, given to other guardians who came to the van to say hello and to assure us we were being looked after. Frankly we had no idea who we were paying but felt confident these people would make sure all was well with the van.
We were treated like royalty, beggars were shooed away and when the car park became less busy they invited us to move the van so we could have a better view of the beach. Only thing they failed to do was to keep the seagulls from landing on our the van with a loud thud followed by stomping footsteps across our roof – sounded like we had a grumpy teenager upstairs!