Essaouira Port, Morocco
The nets are catching more than fish. This morning they’re catching the sun as the rays make the moisture in their ropes glint.
It’s blue, all blue.
The nets are made from blue twine tightly tied together.
The doors of the lockers the fishermen use on the promenade are blue.
The hulls of the ships are painted blue – almost matching the cloudless sky above.
And, of course, there’s a dazzling blue coming from the sea which crashes on the walls around me.
There are other colours too. Not all the nets are blue. Some are rich and warm like the desert just metres away. Some are brown and old, like the history of the place. Everything still seems to have a hint of the azure, though.
I’m standing at the side of the dock in the port of Essaouira on the coast of Morocco. It’s an impressive place (and not just because it manages to use every vowel in its name).
It was once the most important trading port between Africa, Europe and the Americas. Cotton and tea moved through these waters, luxuries like ivory and ostrich feathers did too. And so did the slaves – something nobody cares to remember.
Just as the trade of humans is in the past, so is the peak of Essaouira Port. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was a hub of nationalities and religions. A special quarter for foreign merchants was set up and allowances were made for business with Christians.
Now, today, it is just a glorified fish market.
The waters are not deep enough for the large modern boats that surge between the continents these days. The other large port cities of Casablanca to the north and Agadir to the south have also created too much competition anyway.
Essaouira has lost its status but it hasn’t lost its charm. As a visitor, I found it intoxicating (although that may have just been the aroma of the fishermen’s haul).
The boats are all lined up in the water the morning I visit. I suspect most of them have already come in from the overnight or early morning catch.
Young men are cleaning the vessels; the stalls along the dock are full of fresh fish and the gulls are hungrily hovering above. Nobody pays me too much attention as I wander through it all, taking photos.
If you would like to see it for yourself, have a look at these tours. The one that begins in Essaouira is excellent but the other ones offer transport from Marrakech, if you only have a day.
I would like to now share some of those photos with you. You will see the blue. It’s woven through them all like a dye has leaked across the film. You’ll see some traces of the past but, overall, what you see is Essaouira Port today… in all its charm.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN ESSAOUIRA
I would recommend staying a night or more in Essaouira – it’s certainly worth more than a day trip.
For a cool backpacker place with views across the water, I suggest Essaouira Beach Hostel.
There’s a charming option in the medina I would recommend called Hôtel Emeraude Essaouira.
For something a bit stylish, have a look at Suite Azur Hotel, with a great rooftop.
And when it comes to luxury, I would recommend the Hotel Le Médina Essaouira Thalassa.