After a few very hot days in Marrakech and the Sahara, we headed to the beach. Essaouira is about two and a half hours from Marrakech, and is known for being an important port city as well as a favorite hippie hangout since the 60's. Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens were known to love the place. The culture here is undoubtedly Moroccan, but with a free-spirited, much less conservative vibe than other parts of the country.
We hopped on the 8:30am bus from Marrakech to Essaouira. Procuring tickets for this bus was no small thing. They sell out, so you must buy in advance. The catch is that you can't buy them online, so someone has to buy them in person, but no more than two days in advance. We were going to be in the desert during that window, so our kind tour guide, Brahim, had arranged for his friend to buy them for us. During the long tortuous (and torturous) drive yesterday, we stopped somewhere in the mountains outside Marrakech to pick them up from this friend, who had left them at the desk of a random roadside restaurant. Sometimes you have to get creative! Anyhow, the bus ride was very easy and surprisingly comfortable, if a little grimy. It is Morocco, after all, and that's part of its charm. There's also a convenient midpoint stop on the bus route to buy treats. Coca-Cola, Pringles, and Snickers are ubiquitous everywhere now. This photo is a great example of Sarah simultaneously giving up on assimilation and looking put together.
We were lucky to get a great last minute deal on booking.com for a 4-star hotel right on the beachfront, the Le Medina Essaouira Hotel Thalassa, which happens to be a Sofitel property. We loved it! We had planned to stay for two nights, but almost immediately after checking in and scoping out the facilities, we reserved a third night.
Since we took an early bus from Marrakech, we arrived at the hotel two hours before regular check in. They were kind enough to expedite preparation of our room, and in the meantime they served us our favorite hot mint tea and cookies!
The main purpose of our time in Essaouira was to just relax, so we started with lunch and drinks by the pool. Cold beer, chicken club sandwich, and seafood salad.
After a few hours by the pool reading and snoozing off the beer and food coma, we got cleaned up and headed inside the walls of the medina, a quick five minute walk from our hotel. Dinner was at a guidebook recommendation, Le Petite Perle, which has been a local and tourist favorite for 25 years. And it shows! Tagine for Hirsh and kebab for Sarah. Although we didn't capture it on camera, the waiter here had the highest-altitude and most impressive mint tea pour we have seen in Morocco.
As we walked back to the hotel, these lively young street musicians, fronted by a brilliantly talented percussionist tapping and rapping his hands on everything he could find, cemented Essaouira's boho reputation for us. So fun!