Essaouira, ‘little picture’, is one of those stage set places: you half expect to see plumed cavalry coming round the corner, or a camera crew filming some diva up on the ramparts. It is a beautifully designed 18th-century military port, and somehow hasn’t been too much changed since. The walls are white, the windows and shutters are often cracked and faded blue, while arches and columns are sandy camel-brown. Three crescent moons on a city gate provide a touch of the heraldic, while surfers and fanciful Jimi Hendrix myths hint at Essaouira’s hippy days, a couple of decades ago. (Though stories linking the ruins of Borj el Baroud with Hendrix’s ‘Castles Made of Sand’ are spurious – the song was released 18 months before the singer visited Essaouira.) Tall feathery araucaria trees and palms along the ramparts add a Mediterranean touch. New flights to the airport may further reduce Essaouira’s isolation though currently most visitors still arrive by bus or taxi from Marrakech. Large numbers of foreigners have bought picturesque property and there are two successful music festivals.


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