A stopover in Essaouira, Morocco

A fort at the harbor in Essaouira, Morocco, in November 2016. (File photos: NYTimes)
The fetching Atlantic port of Essaouira lacks the fame and grandeur of more famous Moroccan cities like Casablanca, but that is exactly its draw. Easier to navigate than the vast medieval labyrinth of Fez and far more manageable than hectic Marrakesh, Essaouira (pronounced ess-uh-WEE-ruh) is coastal North Africa at its most quaint and picturesque. اضافة اعلان

Blue wooden fishing boats haul in the day’s catch. Dromedaries roam the beaches. Come evening, the sunset casts its glow on the crenelated ramparts and watchtowers. It is little wonder that productions like Orson Welles’s 1951 “Othello” and HBO’s “Game of Thrones” have filmed here. These days, art galleries, stylish guesthouses, and a blossoming design scene add to the eye candy, while summer music festivals like the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival provide the beat.

Here is the perfect agenda for a 32-hour Essaouira stopover:
Friday4pm: Peer into the past. A portal into the past opens down Rue de la Sqala, a passageway off Essaouira’s main square, Place Moulay Hassan. Strolling alongside the high battlements, you pass beneath stone arches and ascend a long ramp to reach the city’s most scenic spot: a promenade lined with 18th-century cannons pointing out to sea.

The wide walkway and its majestic watchtower offer sublime vistas of the craggy coast and the Purple Islands, where ancient Phoenicians and Romans crushed murex shells to make much-prized violet dyes. Seagulls whirl above. Waves crash below. For a moment, time stands still.

A street in Essaouira, Morocco, in November 2016

6pm: Drink in the sunset. Maghreb, the Arabic term for Morocco, means “sunset”, and the rooftop lounge of the boho-chic Salut Maroc hotel, steps away from the promenade, is a lovely spot to soak it up. Sit amid the riot of multicolored tiles and order a glass of local Terre Blanche white wine as you gaze out at the Atlantic. On some weekend evenings, local musicians provide a live soundtrack.

7:30pm: Feast in retro style. Dar Baba, a candlelit restaurant with a retro-kitsch aesthetic, features banquettes made from cheesy floral blankets, mismatched vintage chairs, and walls hung with all imaginable kinds of curios.

The menu is awash in seafood tapas — which encompass calamari, ceviche, and sautéed shrimp — as well as a succulent lamb shoulder in a caramel glaze. For dessert, try a lush, Moroccanized tiramisù larded with fig slices, rose petals, and pistachios. The wine list includes many Moroccan wines, including Tandem, made from 100 percent Syrah.

10pm: Choose your nightcap. In the mood for a discreet, dimly lit lounge that is perfect for sealing deals or pontificating over cognac? Glide into Le Salon Anglais in the palatial Heure Bleue hotel. The fireplace, wood paneling, Chesterfield couches, and cigar humidor exude Churchillian elegance, while the fine spirits and original cocktails slake sophisticated thirsts.

The city wall, dating to the 18th century, in Essaouira, Morocco, in November 2016.

Alternatively, channeling the spirit of Essaouira’s most famous musical visitor, Jimi Hendrix (he passed through in July 1969), D’Jazy evokes the city’s hippie past with bohemian décor, live music that includes guitar duos and jazz trios, and Moroccan beer.

Saturday10am: Discover local styles. All the accouterments of your new Moorish-modern home and wardrobe are hiding in the lanes near the stone Sbaa gate, where a small local design scene is flourishing. A favorite of laptop-toting global nomads, L’Atelier cafe also sells carpets, tea services, and tableware, while the new Côté Bougie store (3 rue Youssef El Fassi) provides room deodorizers, diffusers, and scented candles in fragrances like mint tea, spice, and orange blossom. For women’s clothing, check out Histoire de Filles, which stocks contemporary caftans, scarves embossed with Moorish prints, and abundant accessories.

Noon: Get lost in the galleries. Essaouira’s most compelling galleries are as charmingly meandering as the city itself; exploring and getting lost are half the pleasure. The most organized is Le Real Mogador, a grandiose mansion housing rotating exhibitions of mostly Moroccan contemporary artists, such as folkloric Mostafa El Hadar and abstract painter Said Ouarzaz.

Larger and more eclectic, Galerie la Kasbah is a three-level hodgepodge of sculptural horses, African masks, and paintings that range from Saharan scenes to fever-dream hallucinations. Vaster and stranger still, Elizir Gallery is a sprawling vintage emporium full of Egyptian movie posters, steamer trunks, Saarinen-style chairs, spotlights, appliances, harem pants, and paintings.

2pm: Haul in your lunch. There is a makeshift seafood grill by the harbor, amid the briny chaos of fishmongers, where newly netted bounty passes almost directly into your belly. This outdoor jumble of plastic chairs and tables has no name, no address, no phone, and no set hours — just an array of undersea delicacies that might include sardines (an Essaouira specialty), sea bream, monkfish, shrimp, langoustine, or lobster.

To find it, pass through the colonnaded stone El Marsa gate toward the port and veer to the right. Your selections will be tossed on the scale, flipped onto the grill, and served with bread and diced tomatoes. Messy and magnificent.

Artisans sell their wares in Essaouira, Morocco, in November 2016. 

4pm: Ride waves, or a camel. A whiff of France’s Côte d’Azur suffuses Ocean Vagabond, a tree-shaded, indoor-outdoor beach club (free entry) where a tanned crowd in designer sunglasses indulges in various forms of leisure: lounging on sunbeds, shopping for beachwear, clinking glasses of local rosé, and, most notably, marveling at the dromedaries that roam the sands just in front of them.

To ride one, negotiate directly with its individual handler and expect to pay 100 to 150 dirham per hour. If you want to surf Essaouira’s modest waves, the adjacent Ion Club provides gear and lessons.

6pm: Vanish into the vapor.
The hammam treatment at Azur Art & Spa is like a journey into some mythological wellness underworld. Nearly naked, you are led into a hot, dark room flickering with candles, where an attendant washes you and leaves you to absorb the heat and moisture.

In a dreamy half consciousness, you move to a dark chamber that resembles a mausoleum and are laid out on a slab of marble as if to be sacrificed. The ritual instrument is a rough glove that the attendant rubs forcefully all over your body to remove dead skin. It can be painful, but purgatory soon gives way to paradise. After an invigorating massage, you emerge an hour later from the darkness, don a white robe, drink restorative tea, and climb a set of white stairs into the sunlight. A roof deck has rarely felt so heavenly. Reserve ahead.

8pm: Dine under the arches. The cooks at La Clé de Voûte — a classy, living-room-like restaurant with stone arches and plush banquettes — are masters of lamb, whether you take yours as a thick shank with caramelized bananas or simply slow-cooked over coals in a clay pot along with cumin, candied lemons, raisins, and clarified butter.

Rounding out the menu are classic Moroccan dishes like pastilla (shredded pigeon in a crispy, savory-sweet phyllo pastry), jazzed-up French classics (mille-feuille with goat cheese and dates), and some flavorful vegetarian options (cauliflower drenched with Greek yogurt and zesty red Spanish piquillo pepper sauce).

10pm: Dance on a rooftop. “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” was the play that became the film “Casablanca”. An Essaouira version could be called “Everybody Comes to Taros”. The restaurant-bar-club sprawls over a multitiered rooftop built around an elevated stage for DJs and bands and attracts a crowd that defies generalization: Moroccan youth, dreadlocked European backpackers, English sports fans, weekending businesswomen, and retired couples. By 11pm, the place is packed with crowds sipping Casablanca beer and dancing to funk, techno, and more. For a quiet interlude, one flight down is Le Club, a cozy indoor lounge serving Moroccan wines.

Sunday10am: Hone haggling skills. When you are amassing exhibitions for your Museum of Obsolete Technologies, the teeming Sunday flea market (called the joutia) should be your first stop. A 10-minute walk from the Doukkala gate along Avenue Moulay Hicham, the sprawling, blockslong market abounds in old fax machines, calculators, clock radios, VHS players, slide projectors, turntables, and other bygone gadgetry — to say nothing of cheap shoes, diapers, towels, chain saws, fruits, and vegetables. Amid the chaff and sundry daily staples, you might be lucky enough to find folk art, cow skulls, metal lanterns, hexagonal end tables, and other cool knickknacks. Prices are open to negotiation.

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