Travel

Essaouira to hit the right note

A turtle gets out of a swimming pool in Essaouira, Morocco.
A turtle gets out of a swimming pool in Essaouira, Morocco. AAP

ITS fairy-tale battlements the colour of honey, its miles of sandy beaches and a bustling blue-and-white medina straight out of a picture book have made this laid-back little port on Morocco's Atlantic coast a magnet for musicians since its hippie heyday in the Sixties.

Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens and Frank Zappa all visited Essaouira, and locals stick happily to the story that Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand" was inspired by the ruins of the Borj El-Berod watchtower, a crumbling former fortress on the water's edge to the south.

That the song was recorded two years before Hendrix is known to have visited Essaouira is only a minor inconvenience.

Fortunately, Essaouira has no need to rely on dodgy legends for its musical fame.

The town hosts an array of music festivals - a classically based AlizEs festival every April, an exuberant jazz and world music festival in late June, and a gypsy and flamenco-based Festival of the Atlantic Andalusias in October.

But even outside of festival time you'll find eager performers in full swing in venues ranging from the cosmopolitan cool of the town's trendy Caravane Cafe to the ramshackle restaurants of the alleyway Rue El Khabbazine (near the jewellery souk), where local musicians take cheap tagine suppers.

The music is Essaouira's hypnotic pulse and living history.

Played on traditional instruments - bass drums, iron castanets and the lute-like guimbri - its mesmeric rhythms and chants were first developed by slaves brought to Morocco from sub-Saharan Africa.

We wake up next morning with sore heads but happy hearts.

Essaouira has retained the colour, friendliness and easy charm that first attracted hippie travellers, but there's no longer any need for visitors to rough it.

Boutique hotels and chic riads abound, and we're in the most glamorous of all.

Housed in a sumptuously restored former palace, Heure Bleue Palais sits within the medina just inside the Bab Marrakech gate.

It's fantastically stylish, with marble pillars, carved cedar panelling and Essaouira's only rooftop swimming pool.

Breakfast is served on silver salvers, in a palm-filled courtyard brimming with birdsong and the tinkling of a fountain.

Replete with fruits, honey pancakes and sticky cakes, we head down cobbled streets into the heart of the medina.

Essaouira's lively souks, clustered around where Avenue Mohamed Zerktouni and Avenue Mohammed El Qouri meet, are just as colourful as the labyrinths of Marrakech but more manageable, less manic.

 

>> To read more travel stories

Topics:  destinations, morocco, tourism, travel




Meet your superbike heroes in Warwick

Your chance to meet stars such as DesmoSport Ducati's Mike Jones, Yamaha Racing Teams' Wayne Maxwell and Yamaha Racing Teams' Glenn Allerton.

Meet your Australian Superbike heroes

Helicopter hit by ute on the road to repair

Helicopter damaged by ute being transported by road.

Warwick man busted with with meth, ecstasy and pot

Man found with a stash of illegal drugs.

Latest deals and offers

Elena wins MasterChef: “I’m ecstatic and eager to celebrate"

MasterChef Australia 2016 winner Elena Duggan, from Noosa.

NOOSA chefs survive marathon grand final dish by Heston Blumenthal.

Shannen Doherty shaves hair during cancer battle

Shannen Doherty has completely shaved off her hair

Brian McFadden makes daughters pay for own Christmas gifts

McFadden makes his daughters pay for half their presents

Lady Gaga is a godmother

Lady Gaga has become a godmother to her friends' daughter

Will Turbo be taken off TV?

Memes about Turbo are flowing on Social media.

PEOPLE want Turbo taken off TV, but will Prospero Productions the ma

Police charge in after Lohan claims fiance tried to kill her

"You tried to kill me. You're a f*****g psycho".

You can own this Queensland town for just $1

Yelarbon

Unprecedented auction of town's business centre with no reserve

Work starts on $15M Caloundra apartment building

Turning the first sod at the Aqua View Apartments site in Kings Beach are (from left) husband-and-wife developers Alex Yuan and Stella Sun with construction company Tomkins director Mike Tomkins and Councillor Tim Dwyer.

Developers excited about addition to Kings Beach skyline

72-year-old Coast developer set to start new project

GREEN LIGHT: The Cosmopolitan has been approved for development at Cotton Tree.

Meet the Canberran set to deliver another chapter for Coast suburb

Plans revealed for 1500-lot 'master-planned community'

Precinct will be bounded by Boundary St and Shoesmith Rd

Ecco Ripley sales run sparks prime release

MOVING IN: Sekisui House has announced the release of more residential blocks at Ecco Ripley.

Sekisui House is preparing to unveil more land at Ecco Ripley

The climb is slow but property on the way up

Michael Matusik, director of Matusik Property Insights.Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin

The improvement would be mild when compared to past cycles