Visit Morocco: Essaouira

This post is somewhat different from previous posts in this series. Essaouira is a special place, and I’d like to share it through the lense of my cousin’s camera. Thank you, Afaf, for sharing your photos and experiences on this trip with me, and thank you for allowing me to share them with others.

Photo credit: Afaf Miri

West of Marrakesh, on the Atlantic Coast, is a port city called Essaouira. The medina (old city) is guarded by ramparts built in the 18th century. They call it the Skala de la Kasbah. The brass cannons that once provided protection now attract tourists for stunning ocean views and beautiful photo opportunities.

Essaouira is a Moroccan gem. Unlike Marrakech or Casablanca, Essaouira is less about the hustle and bustle and more about the feel of the ocean breeze and the preservation of architectural history. It’s special for many reasons, but, like most of the cities in Morocco, the shopping is top quality.

The souks of essaouira

For a tourist that loves to shop, Essaouira does not disappoint. You’ll find colorful carpets, handmade jewelry and clothing, handwoven baskets and bags, tapestries, and stunning artwork.

The pace is slower in Essaouira, and you’ll find that the vendors are kind and little more patient than those of Marrakech. The streets are less crowded, and the shops are slightly bigger.

There’s a tranquility about the marketplace in Essaouira that adds to all that makes it special.

Experience dining

Mega Loft by OthmanChic
Photo Cred: Afaf Miri

Like everything in this beautiful city, the restaurants are full of color and artistic expression. Mega Loft is a cafe with a modern aesthetic. The art installations create a memorable dining experience.

The Mega Loft brand did not originate in Morocco. However, they are known to merge the cafe experience elegantly with the local culture. Mega Loft Essaouira does just that.

Mega Loft by OthmanChic
Photo Cred: Afaf Miri

The wall of vibrantly decorated baskets you see displayed on the wall are all made and designed in traditional Berber style.

At night, they have live music. The atmosphere is laidback with a hippie feel. It’s comfortable and has something for everyone.

Blessings of the ocean: The fishing ports

You should expect nothing short of an impressive seafront from a port city, and you can always expect nothing less that dynamic colors and style from Morocco. That’s exactly how I would describe the boat docks in Essaouira.

In a port city, you can expect a feast of seafood; the markets of Essaouira have everything you could ask for and more. Local restaurants and dives serve fresh catch. This is a city for foodies as much as it is for shoppers and history buffs.

Join Me for Part 6: rabat…

Mausoleum of Mohammed V

Rabat is the home of the King and the capitol city of Morocco. It’s metropolitan and full of history. Subscribe to read the next installment of this series…

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Visit Morocco: Kénitra

When I say that Morocco is where my heart is, I’m referring specifically to Kénitra. It’s part of a region consisting of three cities called Rabat-Salé-Kénitra. An easy 30-minute train ride will take you between the three, and a first class ticket is only 24 USD.

Photo by Kristan Jennings

Mehdya Beach

When you take the road from the city to Mehdya Beach, there’s a place along the road, just atop a hill where you can see miles of shoreline. It appears in the blink of an eye, and if you catch it just around sunset, it feels like the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. Sunsets are special in North Africa, and the beach is the best place to be.

The shorelines in Kénitra border the Atlantic Ocean, and the seasons are similar to those of the southern states here in the U.S. Summer is hot, and winter has a chill but is never unpleasant. The beach is open year-round, and that’s where you’ll find the best dining options.

My official Moroccan wedding was in November 2017, one year after we were married in Columbus, Ohio. The night before the wedding, everyone went to the beach just before the sun went down. There was the slightest breeze in the air, and even in November, it was warm enough to step in the water.

The beach was empty save a man with three camels. For 10 USD/each, we rode camels down the shoreline and took some memorable photos before heading to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

Taxi Beach

Thirty minutes outside of the city you’ll find arguably one of the best beaches in Morocco, Taxi Beach.

Taxi Beach, Kénitra Morocco
Photo by Kristan Jennings

With miles of accessible shoreline and the widest beach berm I’ve ever seen, Taxi Beach is never too crowded. We didn’t have to travel far from the entrance to find an open area large enough to set up an umbrella, chairs, and snacks.

My husband and his friend kicked a soccer ball around the shoreline while I read a book under the umbrella, tea in hand (there’s always someone making it by fire and selling it on the beach).

His nephew built a sandcastle a few feet away. A vender selling large, Moroccan style donuts (much like French beignet) walked by several times. I ate two.

Speaking of eating…let’s talk about the seafood.

What Should You Eat?

Kénitra is best known for one thing: the seafood. The fish markets are plentiful year-round, and Mehdya Beach is home to the best restaurant in or around the city…Merzouga is a seafood haven with a stunning view of the Ocean.

The second floor at Merzouga is open air, designed to make the view and the fresh ocean breeze part of your experience. The food was phenomenal.

Our group ordered fresh fish platters with fries and Morocco’s famous bread. There were salads and a boat of sushi. Yes, I said boat. Twenty-four pieces of sushi made from fish caught on a dock not far down the road from where we sat. It was about one fourth what you might pay for the same in the U.S.

If, like me, you live for dessert, Kénitra has an amazing selection of bakeries. Cookies, cakes, pastries…whatever you like, you’ll find. Since you don’t have the luxury of my sisters-in-law baking mouthwatering treats for you, you’ll have to settle for one of many patisseries in the city.

I strongly recommended Patisserie Dadiben. I ate their chocolate creme donuts every night of Ramadan. Be sure to say “Salaam” to my sister-in-law, Miriam, when you drop by. Tell her Kristan sent you. 🙂

Just Along the River Front…

Just a couple of blocks from my husband’s neighborhood is the Sebou River. Along the bank is a beautiful sidewalk, typically not very busy but still lively. You’ll find cafe after cafe offering delicious food, coffee, tea, and juice on patios overlooking the river.

The cafes in Kénitra are extravagant in design. They are often named like clubs…Club Maamora, River Club…etc. A new one was in construction the last time I was there.

My favorite thing to do in Kenitra is take a walk along the river and sit in a cafe around sunset. The atmosphere is casual, peaceful, and relaxing. Something about the breeze from the water, the cozy surroundings, and the presence of people you love that makes everything in life come to center.

Where Should You Shop?

Morocco is known for the souk (market). If you follow along, I’ll take you through Jemaa el-Fna, the famous center for shopping in Marrakech. If you don’t know the name, you’d recognize the photos.

Kénitra, like every Moroccan city, has its own markets, which are essentially winding streets of small individual vendors selling everything from jewelry to traditional kaftans to olives and spices.

Vendor in Kénitra souk on John Kennedy Rue (street)
Photo by Kristan Jennings

Those stunning kaftans you find online or in America that say “Made in Morocco” are around every corner. Handmaid goods are a staple, and if you’ve never smelled Moroccan bread baked fresh, you haven’t lived.

Join Me for Part 3: Marrakech

Photo by Selina Bubendorfer on Unsplash

Jemaa el-Fna, luxurious and affordable riads in the old medina, olive orchards, and much, much more…

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