QUINTESSENTIALLY MOROCCO

A Traveler’s Guide: Where to Eat, Where to Shop and What to See

 

Top 8 Things to Do in Essaouira with Kids, Family Friendly Activities

Hassan Square (Place Hassan), Essaouira

Essaouira, affectionately referred to as “swera” by locals, is a windy city on Morocco’s Northern Atlantic Coast. Essaouira is a top-rated destination for families for its multitude of things to do with kids. Ideal for families, honeymooners and Morocco travelers Essaouira’s white and blue washed medina is revered for its charming ramparts, vibrant art galleries, shopping and seafood gastronomy. Just three hours from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech this coastal town is the perfect weekend getaway with an abundance of unique accommodation options ranging from quaint, countryside villas, to luxury riads and hotels with sea views. Families who have an interest in vacationing at an artistic seaside community and with a penchant for adventure should add Essaouira to their bucket list.

Just three hours from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech this coastal town is the perfect weekend getaway with an abundance of unique accommodation options ranging from quaint, countryside villas, to luxury riads and hotels with sea views. Families who have an interest in vacationing at an artistic seaside community and with a penchant for adventure should add Essaouira to their bucket list.

Essaouira is recognized by UNESCO for being a prime example of a late 18th century fortified town whose architecture was influenced by the Europeans, particularly by the Portuguese. The Portuguese set up a fishing village in this sea port town which has for decades been referred to as old Mogador.Essaouira also boasts a rich Jewish Heritage inclusive of several synaogues and a Jewish Musuem.

As a laid-back family, friendly destination Essaouira is home to enchanting rooftop cafes and charming seafood restaurants surrounded magnfiicent views. If your family enjoys birdwatching the surrounding area of Essaouira is worth a vist. Host to family activities such as quad biking, horseback riding, camel trekking, cheese making and wine tasting this petite city with a strong alize has a mesmerizing attraction to travelers of all ages.

Host to family activities such as quad biking, horseback riding, camel trekking, cheese making and wine tasting this petite city with a strong alize has a mesmerizing attraction to travelers of all ages.

Quad Biking, Essaouira

Top 8 Things to Do in Essaouira with Kids

#1: Quad bike with views of the Atlantic

Quad riding is an ideal adventure for active families traveling to Morocco. Quad riding excursions are easy to arrange, reasonably priced and include stops in Berber villages, local souks, and interesting marketplaces. Essaouira’s coastal landscapes are comprised of sand dunes, cliffs and forests, creating the perfect backdrop for a quad adventure. Booking a 2-3-hour quad ride that is tailor made passing through Swera’s wild beaches, Oued Ksob and the ruins of the Sultant’s Palace can be done on your own or through a trusted Morocco travel agent.

#2: Cheese Making at a Fromagerie

Located in the countryside, down a dusty pise, on the route de Safi, eight kilometers from Essaouira sits a charming French style farmhouse surrounded by flowers, botanical herbs, and outdoor picnic tables. La Fromagerie is one of Essaouira’s many hidden secrets that cheese connoisseurs simplycannot get enough of.

With its moderate climate of mild, rainy winters and cool summers old Mogador is an ideal setting to eat and make cheese. La Fromagerie offers farm to table cuisine and cheese making year-round.  Visitors can enjoy a glass of local wine paired with a freshly made artisanal goat, camel, and cow cheeses. Meals are served in four courses, including baked, stuffed eggplant with soft cheese, a green vegetable and goat cheese salad, main course of grilled meat on a spit or tajine and a sumptuous cheese tasting.

La Fromagerie’ s owner Abderzak Khounbbane is Moroccan and has been making cheese for over a decade. Abderzak claims, “I make the most delicious cheeses in all Morocco.“  Cheese making classes are by appointment only

Khadija’s Cuisine, Cooking Class, Essaouira

#3: Cooking Class, An afternoon at Home with Khadija’s Kuzina

An afteroon with Khadija in her kitchen is sure to offer the entire family a one-of-a-kind authentic Moroccan cooking experience. Unlike any other in Morocco, Khadija’s cooking class is personlized given takes place inside her Essaouira home. She offers families the opportunity to participate in a step by step cuisne adventure. A typical menus consists of breads, Moroccan salads, couscous with beef or lamb or tajine and desert. Families can select their own cuisine menu based upon interests in learning about Moroccan food or one can be recommended. A large Moroccan meal will be prepared using fresh local produce and then eaten family style.

Khadija and her husband Lahoussaine, who often co-share some responsbilities for the cooking class are from the tiny mountain village near Essaouira called Ait Diba. They still reside their part time. Both are been Peace Corps supporters and help facilitate projects of cultural exchange.

#4. Shop the Souks

Another must do experience in Essaouira shopping the souks. Souks and markets are a major feature in Moroccan life, and among the country’s greatest attractions for Moroccan travelers. Whether or not you are a big shopper, going to a Souk is a cultural experience that should not be missed on a trip to Essaouira. A visit would be complete without wandering maze like alleys of Essaouira’s historic souksin the medina. Moroccan baboosh, to Berber carpets, silver jewelry, caftans and various natural and Argan products are widely available. Essaouria’s seaside medina also has its share of concept stores which offer a wide range of modern, Moroccan goods. Histoire de filles, L’Aeleire, Bo Boutique and Koulchiare boutiques that offer a variety of chic and trendy goods made by Moroccan artisans and designers.

Essaouira’s market streets are also a highlight for the entire family and offer the opportunity to connect with locals. The olive seller, the argan butter pressed by women and the breadman are always a highlight for children since the locals offer up tasting options. Fresh produce, hanging meats, squawking chickens and organic herbs handpicked from the countryside line the main market street and make for a most enchanting, colorful backdrop.

Horse Back Riding, Ranch Diabat, Sidi Kaouki

#5. Horseback Riding & Water Activities in Sidi Kaouki

Sidi Kaouki is the perfect day trip from Essaouira that guarantees adventure for the entire family. The village of Sidi Kaouki is named after a local saint and his tomb (marabout) at the ocean’s edge has become an important place of pilgrimage for the region. Sidi Kaouki is a 15-minute drive from Essaouira. It’s panoramic coastal backdrop set lends itself to many outdoor water activities. Families can also dine at Les Kiosques, a local square that offers a variety of fresh seafood restaurants that are open year-round. This coastal village’s wide range of family activities that are perfect for families with kids are horseback riding, camel trekking, surfing, windsurfing and quad biking and sandboarding. For families with a keen interest in horseback riding Sidi Kaouki has expansive treks with views. Family activities such as horseback riding and quad riding can be booked through Ranch Diabat or other local, Essaouira providers.

Cap Sim Hiking, Morocco Travel Blog

#6. Cap Sim, Family Trekking

One of Morocco’s best kept secrets on the Coast of Essaouira is Cap Sim. For families who are interested in trekking along the Moroccan coast, the Cap Simpromontory, south of Essaouira and between the medina and the small seaside town of Sidi Kaouki, is reachable along the broad sandy beach when the tide is out. There are 3, 6 and 9-mile private, guided trekking options all by foot or horseback that include lunch.A trek on Cap Sim will begin at the rolling sand dunes and take you past the lighthouse, across various terrains until you reach Morocco’s surfing called Sidi Kaouki.

 

Had Dra Market, Essaouira

#7. Had Dra Sunday Market

The Had Dra is one of the largest markets in Morocco. For travelers fortunate enough to be in Essaouira on a Sunday this outdoor bustling local souk is a must see. Located between Marrakech and Essaouira, visitors will be rewarded with a seeing a lively souk composed of agricultural products and animals. You may just catch sight of the cattle auctions and camel trading. Had Dra has been a trading point for centuries having its origins linked to Essaouria and Timbuktu. Infused in history, it originally started as a slave trading market and is less touristic than the markets centrally located in Moroccan cities. Had Dra is authentic and offers insight into traditional Moroccan life, along with the chance to see first hand the process of buying and selling livestock and fresh vegetables.

Gnaoua Festival of Music, Essaouira

#8. Gnaoua Festival, Music by Night in June

Since its first edition in 1988, the Gnaoua Festival has been taking place each June in the port city of Essaouira. It attracts a cosmopolitan audience of 500,000 festival-goers annually. Free of charge to the public the Gnaoua Festival is an eclectic music, arts and culture festival deeply rooted in North African styles, sounds and traditions. The festival is a vibrant and immersive experience ideal for families. It fills the city streets, squares, docks and has performance venues that ooze an extravaganza of sound and color.

The Gnaoua Festival offers ten concert sites with ten complementary programs to cater to a range of musical tastes. The lineup also extends beyond traditional local rhythms to include contemporary funk, blues, jazz and soul both from Africa and from further afield, transforming Essaouira into a musical, artistic and cultural hub over the course of four days.

Mogador truly lights up during the month of June.  Famous musicians who have performed at The Gnaoua Festival since its first edition in 1988 are: Trio Jourdan with bluesman Justin Adams, Toumani Diabaté, Eric Legnini, KyManiMarley, Wayne Shorter, the National Orchestra of Barbès, Hassan Hakmoun, Will Calhonn, AdamRudolph, Sussan Deyhim, Steve Shehan, Yéyé Kanté, Adam Rudolph, Mokhtar Samba, Yaya Ouattara, Jamey Haddad, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Randy Weston, Adam Rudolph, The Wailers, Pharoh Sanders, Keziah Jones, Omar Sosa, Doudou N’Diaye Rose, the Italian trumpet player Paolo Fresau and Ramon Valle.

After nearly three decades of consistent success, the festival recently honored the Gnaoua musicians with a new stage, dedicated to them at Bab Doukkala, as to show gratitude and support to the artists.

Alecia Cohen

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