23-30th July 2020
A relaxing break in the beautiful laid back coastal town of Essaouira.
With its wonderful historic port bustling with fishing boats and fishermen mending nets and laying out their catch for sale to the cries of seagulls and the crash of Atlantic waves against the bastion. It’s lovely medina with quiet sidestreets, artists galleries and studios and even several vegan cafes and it’s fantastic street art. Essaouira is an inspiring place whether you are artistic or not with so much to see and do.
Or you can just spend a bit of time relaxing on the enormous beach or sauntering along it on a camel…
The art workshops on this holiday will be at the hotel on the second and third days and are suitable for both complete beginners and the more experienced. Essaouria is a perfect place to find inspiration and there are many beautiful places available to sketch or paint around the town. Individual tuition with Katherine can also be arranged if required.
We will stay in the Cap Sim hotel in the medina just a few minutes walk from both the port and the beach.
Riad accommodation in Marrakesh on your first and last night
5 nights with breakfast in the lovely centrally located Cap Sim hotel in Essaouria, just a few hundred yards from both the port and the medina.
Transport to and from Essaouira and airport transfers in Marrakech.
Orientation tour (includes entrance fee to the port ramparts of Essaouria)
2 art workshops with all the guidance and materials necessary to produce a Lino print and a mixed media piece based on your experience of Essaouira during your stay.
Meals other than breakfast
It is the coastal wind – the beautifully named alizee, or taros in Berber – that has allowed Essaouira (essa-weera, or es-sweera in Arabic) to retain its traditional culture and character. For most of the year, the wind blows strongly here so relaxing on the beach is not always easy, meaning that the town is bypassed by most of the hordes of beach tourists who descend on other Atlantic Coast destinations in summer. Known as the ‘Wind City of Africa’, it does attract plenty of windsurfers and kite surfers between April and November, but the majority of visitors come here to wander through the spice-scented lanes and palm-lined avenues of the fortified medina, browse the many art galleries and boutiques, relax in the plaza listening to street musicians and watch fishing nets being mended, traditional boats being constructed and wander through the fish market in the hugely atmospheric port.
Most of the old city and fortifications in Essaouira today date from the 18th century, but the town has a much older history that started with the Phoenicians. This area has probably been settled since prehistoric times. For centuries, foreigners had a firm grip over the town, and although Moroccans eventually reclaimed it, the foreign influence lingers on in the way the town looks and feels today.
In 1764 Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah installed himself in Essaouira (then known as Mogador) so that his corsairs could launch attacks on the people of Agadir, who were rebelling against him. He hired a French architect, Théodore Cornut, to create a great city in the middle of sand and wind. The combination of Moroccan and European styles pleased the sultan, who renamed the town Essaouira, meaning ‘well designed’. The port soon became a vital link for trade between Timbuktu and Europe. It was a place where the trade in gold, salt, ivory and ostrich feathers was carefully monitored, taxed and controlled by a garrison of 2000 imperial soldiers.
By 1912 the French had established their protectorate, changed the town’s name back to Mogador and diverted trade to Casablanca, Tangier and Agadir. It was only with independence in 1956 that the sleepy backwater again became Essaouira. Since Orson Welles filmed Othello here and hippies chose Essaouira as a hang-out, the town has seen a steady flow of visitors – everyone from artists, surfers and writers to European tourists escaping the crowds of Marrakesh has made this a thriving and cosmopolitan town, street art and amazing freshly grilled fish in the port cafes are just two of the special attractions of this beautiful seaside town, which is also a living museum of 18th century architecture.