A Day Trip to Essaouira with Kids
Essaouira was a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s Medina. The kids were dying for a place to run around uninhibited. I needed some fresh air, a change of scenery and some breathing room.
We booked our Essaouira tour through Maroc Excursions. Turns out their office was located just a block from our hotel. They walked to the riad to pick us up and got us loaded up in a van to head to Essaouira.
The drive from Marrakech to Essaouira is three and a half hours. The driver stopped briefly to pick up a sack of fruit and a case of water for us to enjoy on the drive. The farther we got from Marrakech the more the browns lightened. An hour outside of Essaouira we stopped to see some goats in a tree.
These nut-hungry goats climb the trees to eat the fruit of the Argan tree. (The goats pictured were likely placed in the tree for tourist photographs.) The goats are key to the Argan process as they pass the seeds in their poop, which is collected and processed into Argan oil.
Our little guy got to hold an adorable lamb (for a few Dirham of course) but he was over the moon. A few minutes from this stop we stopped again at an Argan Oil Collective. We skipped the tour of how it is made, since it was not our first collective but did stop by the store to pick up some more oil. (There are many collectives you can stop at on your drive. The oil is also available in the souks of both Essaouira and Marrakech. Just make sure you are buying the real stuff. If it seems really cheap, you’re probably getting scammed.)
This was our last stop before cresting the hill and seeing Essaouira. We picked up our walking tour guide at Riad Zahara and the driver dropped us all off near the harbor.
This was by far the best walking tour we had. Abraham, our tour guide, walked us all around town telling us about the French influences (grid pattern streets, ramparts and more). He was able to adapt the tour to our kids’ interests – boats, fish, cannons – while still filling us in on the heritage of the city.
The harbor was full of old blue boats. The seas had calmed and the wind was non-existent, making it a perfect day for a visit. Normally, Essaouira is known for strong winds that make it unpleasant to visit. The harbor was alive! There were a plethora of wooden boats being fixed in dry dock, boats returning full of fish getting ready to sell them in the fish market and others resetting their boats to head out again.
As you walk out of the harbor there are stalls set up where you can pick your fish and have it served up for lunch. Our tour included lunch back at the riad, otherwise we would have picked one of these delicious marine animals to be our lunch.
H was not so sure but our tour guide made sure he was able to see as many of the fish as he wanted before we moved on.
After leaving the docks we headed into the old medina. Unlike in Marrakech the French laid out this walled city so it is quite orderly. I was not sure it was possible but the town is full of even more cats than Marrakech.
The souks were stunning and much less crowded than those of Marrakech. I enjoyed perusing a bit more as we talked to a few shopkeepers about their offerings.
One of our last stops was up on the ramparts of the old fort walls. There was a man handing out granola to taste, random but delicious. H loved all the cannons and ocean views. We could see back down the cannon-lined wall toward the harbor.
The colors of the city are blue and white, chosen as a marketing tool for the city, but also indicative of the colors of the sand and sky.
We headed back to Riad Zahara to enjoy lunch by the pool.
The kids were entertained by two small turtles living in the swimming pool and a cat that was engaged in a game of peek-a-boo with the kids.
The tour included two hours on our own. We opted to head to the beach and shortened it to one hour. The beach had a playground for the kids to enjoy (3 Dirhams for 30 mins) and we ran around on the sand. H loves the water and digging in the sand so when our hour was up he was coated in sand. Meanwhile, O did not want anything to do with the sand.
The ride back to Marrakech was quiet. We were all tired from the day. We hit quite a bit of traffic going to the riad. Luckily, we had thought ahead and scheduled a chef to cook dinner for us at the riad. The perfect end to a wonderful beach day.
Essaouira is truly enchanting.
Several of the photos were taken by my talented sister. If you want to see more of her work you can check out her Instagram at @rbjd1313.
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