The Spice Cave
The Cave @ No. 42 is an idiosyncratic ground-floor apartment with a unique blend of Moroccan quirkiness, individual style and European comforts. It has many unique features including some specially commissioned stained glass from a local artist. The spacious open plan living area has a fully equipped kitchen and a beautiful curved tiled staircase leading to two mezzanines. Due to a original quirky floor plan the sleeping arrangements are informal, flexible - and fun! There is one conventional double bedroom, two low-ceilinged mezzanines and additional accommodation in the salon, if required, plus a spacious bathroom (with tadelakt bath/shower) and a small tadelakt shower room. The apartment has access to a large shared rooftop terrace which has splendid views of the medina and the Atlantic Ocean.
Regarded as one of the most beautiful towns on Africas Atlantic coast, Essaouira (ancient Mogador) has a unique charm. You get a feeling that life is easy here. People have time to talk - and listen - with an easy-going tolerance and friendliness born from centuries of mixing with people of other nations and cultures. Even the many stray cats and dogs seem to get on well with each other and their human neighbours. Yet alongside this relaxed, laid-back and slightly bohemian atmosphere there is a sense of sophistication and energy – the feeling that this is a happening place to be. The town is increasingly becoming known as a centre for arts, crafts and music and, each year, hosts several world class festivals and other events. With mild temperatures all year long and around 300 days sunshine a year it is a great place to visit at any time.
The atmospheric medina is a delight to walk around. It is relatively clean, well laid out and safe, even at night. With no motorised transport allowed inside the walls your only risk of being run down is by one of the blue painted handcarts (krossas) that are used for transporting goods.
Designed in the mid 1700’s by a French architect commissioned by a visionary sultan, the medina is an intriguing fusion of French-style piazzas with traditional subterranean passages, vaulted alleys and courtyard houses. Its whitewashed buildings, with ornate doorways and windows painted blue to match the sky, are enclosed by intact pink fortifications. Not surprising then that, in 2001, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Although it is only a leisurely 10 minute walk from one end of the medina to the other it is so packed with fascinating architecture, artisans workshops, galleries, shops, restaurants and cafes that it would take weeks to discover everything. Shopping here tends to be an enjoyable and sociable experience with none of the hard-sell that is typical of other North African towns. You will find hundreds of tiny shops crammed with characterful leatherwork, metalwork, exquisite carpentry, glazed pottery, jewellery, brightly coloured carpets, original art and foodstuffs such as olives, spices and rare argan oil.
The hub of the town is Place Moulay Hassan, a French-style piazza where you can spend time people-watching in the sunshine whilst enjoying mint tea, excellent coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice accompanied by pastries from the nearby patisserie.
Opposite Place Moulay Hassan is the photogenic fishing harbour. Here you can watch the catch being unloaded from brightly-painted boats, learn how the vessels are made using centuries-old techniques or have lunch at one of the seafood stalls which serve wonderfully fresh fish and shellfish simply grilled over charcoal and served with a baguette and juicy tomato salad.
Listed as one of the world’s best beaches, Essaouira’s main beach is a wide crescent of golden sand which stretches for two miles from the medina to the former hippy village of Diabat. It is famed for its watersports which include world class surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. You can book lessons and equipment at several places along the main beach or take a caleche (horse-drawn taxi) out to the less crowded north beach.
If you dont fancy participating, why not sit at one of the numerous waterfront cafes or restaurants and enjoy watching the colourful watersports. There is also usually a game or two of football to watch, even at night when the whole beach is floodlit. Further along the beach, among the sand dunes, there are horses and camels for hire. Even further south, you can walk at low tide to the romantic fort of Borj El Barod which is slowly crumbling into the sea. Nearby you can watch birds at the Ksob estuary or else take a short boat trip to the Iles de Mogador, breeding ground for the rare Eleanora’s falcon which can sometimes be seen circling over the town.
The medina and beyond
The medina (walled town) is pedestrian only. Essaouira is quite a small town and everything is within walking distance of The Cave so a car is only necessary if you plan to take day trips to nearby beaches or beyond. There are several car hire agencies in town where it is possible to hire by the day. For watersports enthusiasts the beach at Sidi Kaouki is worth a visit. Marrakech, with its shopping and nightlife, is about two hours drive away. It is about two more hours drive to the Atlas mountains where you can enjoy spectacular scenery, hillwalking or even skiing.