Oh boy did we LOVE our time in Morocco, fabric sourcing, mint tea drinking, surfing and getting lost amongst the medinas and souks. I literally cannot wait to return with a van to fill to the brim with ceramics, rugs and puppies, but more of that later.
Essaouira is a port city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, it has a laid-back friendly vibe, almost impossible to visit and not feel enchanted by. Here is our World in Cushions guide!
• Be Immersed in the Colours •
Bring your camera with you and get happy snappy - around every corner and turn is a feast for the eyes from the rich reds of the hanging rugs to the olive and blues of the ceramics. The landscape is steeped in pale peaches, ochres and dreamy blue. Being immersed in the landscape of Morocco has a mesmerising affect that calms the very soul. We recommend a long walk along one of the surrounding coastlines miles of empty beaches.
• Where to stay •
There is no shortage of places to stay in Essaouira from the traditional riads to smaller guest houses and swanky hotels. Our favourite is Villa Anouk, built in the Moroccan Beldi tradition the villa is a true sanctuary just a blissful 10 minute drive from the city through a fairy-tale landscape.
• Shopping and Haggling •
Get your bargaining hat on! The Moroccans love a bartering session, it can take an entire morning to reach a price for a beloved piece (With plenty of sweet mint tea drunk for sustenance!) Haggling is part of the Moroccan culture and they are excellent sales people, do not feel alarmed if you find your exit from a shop blocked by the owner determined to make a sale. It is all part of the fun and sometimes you can walk away with a bargain. Morocco is known for its colourful ceramics, beautiful rugs and exotic spices, we promise Essaouira will not disappoint. We recommend carrying plenty of small change as many vendors will struggle to accept larger notes. It is also worth remembering that Friday is traditionally a holy day and therefore many shops will be closed.
• Language •
Moroccans speak a mixture of Arabic, Berber and French. Brushing up on your school French before you go will not be time wasted. Oooh lala! Here are a few words to get you started:
Hello – As-salaam Alaykum (Greeting literally meaning Peace be with you)
Thank you – Choukran
No thank you – La choukran
• Food and drink •
OMG. Prepare to loosen your belt as here comes, drum roll please…… the tagine! The tagine is typically a slow cooked stew of extreme deliciousness, my favourite, the Kefta, is a tagine of meatballs cooked in a tomato and onion sauce with an egg on top, I mean what could be better? Couscous and flat breads are also a staple along with the classic mint tea made with oodles of sugar. It is worth remembering that Morocco is a Muslim country and to the most part alcohol free. If like me on occasion you just fancy a beer, there are a few licenced restaurants and alcohol can be purchased in the supermarkets (often in a secret section.) However my greatest discovery food wise was Amlou – a declcious mix of roasted ground almonds, honey and Argan oil, puts our peanut butter to shame!
• Currency •
The local currency is Dirham and is pronounced (DEE – rahm) and can easily be obtained from cash points and currency exchanges. It is worth carrying small change on you for haggling and tipping purposes, as many vendors including taxi drivers will often refuse to change larger notes.
• Things to watch out for •
The Moroccans make a large portion of their income from tourism and are adept at extracting your money from you. With a big smile and a ‘Oh yes my friend’ you can find yourself paying for something you did not want, need or ask for! Beware of the men with monkeys and snakes or other photo opportunities as the owners will usually ask for payment. I place a certain amount of money in one pocket that I am happy to part with especially for this reason. Whilst travelling aboard being scammed at some point goes hand in hand with getting lost; it’s inevitable and depending on your perception can become part of the big adventure.
Dress code – bring your favourite warm coat! The evenings get cold and the Atlantic wind whistles up the lanes. Learn from my chilly mistake and bring a few extra layers! It is also worth remembering that life as a female tourist in a Muslim country is made a lot easier if you cover up.
Speeding – yes you speedy Gonzales! If you are hiring a car in Morocco be aware there are police with speed cameras (some official, some not) hiding behind bushes on lonely stretches of road just waiting for you to zoom by! A heavy foot could cost you a heavy fine, you’ve been warned!
• And lastly a list of our very favourite things to do •
Take 50 + dogs for an unruly walk along a deserted beach with The Ims’one Project; a dog shelter with stunning panoramic views of the coastline just outside Imsouane. The shelter currently houses 50 dogs, 7 cats and two donkeys. With the help of tourists, volunteers and locals Fanny (the owner) vaccinates and tags the stray dogs of Imsouane and beyond so they can lead safe and happy lives. A visit to her shelter is a must for all animal lovers, located just outside the surfing town of Imsouane. You can contact Fanny via Instagram @imsoneproject to arrange a visit. 10% of all our profits from our Moroccan collection will be going to support this fabulous cause.
Surfing – Morocco has some of the longest point breaks in the world and a trip to Morocco wouldn’t be complete without paddling out to the line-up as the sun fades and glassy waves approach. We recommend a trip to Sufi, not far from Essaouira for a dip in the sea followed by a lazy lunch.
Shopping – The aim is to return with a suitcase stuffed with trinkets and treasures, to get lost pottering around the markets, medinas and souks. In the meantime if you find yourself longing for a flavour of Morocco and will not be visiting anytime soon we recommend buying a cactus silk cushion from our Moroccan collection – available soon!
Go to a Hammam – whilst in Morocco why not get naked and scrubbed by a complete stranger? The experience of a Hammam is of being cocooned in calming warmth, the outside world will feel but a distant memory as warm water sloshes over you, returning you to infancy. Highly recommended!