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

Police investigate deliberately lit fire north of Grafton

Rural Fire Service Wooli Police copyright Tanja Ackerman2016

Storms hamper crew's efforts to contain bushfire in rugged terrain

Truck crash closes M1 at Chinderah

Emergency crews have responded to a two-truck crash that has closed the M1 Pacific Highway at Cudgen Rd.

Truck explodes into flames after Pacific Highway crash

Others had access to medication room, murder trial hears

ACCUSED OF MURDER: Former nurse Megan Jean Haines is accused of murdering two residents at a Ballina nursing home.

'The care workers - they knew the pin,' the accused murderer said

Local Partners

Is it time for a skate park extension in Yamba?

IF YOU ever want to be truly terrified, swing by the Yamba skate park on any given day.

Grafton does the Time Warpt again

The Time Warpt Dinner and Show is set for the Grafton District Services Club on Saturday night.

Rocky Horror dinner show comes back to Grafton

OPINION: Magpies welcome Binge back to the nest

The Lower Clarence Magpies v Casino RSM Cougars at Maclean Showground. Pictured for the Magpies is Ryan Binge (centre).

Lower Clarence Magpies have good news ahead of AGM.

Natalie returns home to perform at the Country Muster

Natalie Davidson will perform at the Clarence Valley Country Muster on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

There will be one local face on stage at this years country muster

January Jones: Take time away from your phone

January Jones needs time away from her phone

Mel C won't return to Spice Girls for daughter

MEL C is adamant she won't reunite with the Spice Girls

60's British rock legends to return to Australia

The Troggs will play a string of dates across Australia in November.  Photo Contributed

We all remember 'Wild Thing' and now you can hear it live.

Grafton does the Time Warpt again

The Time Warpt Dinner and Show is set for the Grafton District Services Club on Saturday night.

Rocky Horror dinner show comes back to Grafton

Depp jumps ship from agency of 25 years

Johnny Depp has signed to CAA after 25 years with the United

Orlando Bloom 'buried' Katy Perry in birthday flowers

Orlando Bloom "buried" Katy Perry in flowers for her birthday

Want to own one of Australia's best restaurants?

TOP GONG: Mooloolaba Spice Bar has been named in TripAdvisor's Top 10 Australian restaurants for 2016.

Here's your chance to pick up one of the Coast's favourite eateries

Maclean's highest house sale this decade

SOLD: Ray White real estate agent Alan Bruchert has just put a new sticker on Maclean's most expensive house to sell in a decade.

Unique riverfront home sells for more than $920,000

Tough times in CBD: Woolies says goodbye Ipswich

Woolworths in the Ipswich Mall.Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times

The last day of trading will be January 1

Look at me! Kath and Kim home up for sale

Kath and Kim from the iconic Aussie TV series.

'Crack open the Baileys and grab a box of BBQ Shapes'

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!