More visitors than ever are discovering the hidden coastal gem that is Essaouira, once a haven for mostly those interested in water sports, for which Essaouira is rightly renowned, but more recently by a broader range of tourists venturing away from the beaten track and Marrakech, seeking something a little different as Essaouira has so much more to offer than just oceanic activities.
This fortified city, colloquially known as “Africa’s Windy City,” attracts water skiers and surfers from April to November but all year round tourists now come to enjoy the spice-scented lanes, palm-lined avenues, and the festive atmosphere. With a rich historical heritage, including UNESCO-listed landmarks in the old city, those who are looking to shop in Essaouira are offered a delightful experience in the captivating souks (markets).
Cinematic fame adds to Essaouira’s allure, as the old city and harbour have featured in Game Of Thrones, Kingdom Of Heaven, Alexander, and Othello amongst other productions. Hollywood and TV companies love to use the ancient streets as backdrops and you’ll love it too. Beyond its cultural charm, the city is a gastronomic hub, presenting diverse cuisine in numerous restaurants and cafes. Tourists can take pleasure in broad, golden beaches for swimming, a wide range of water sports, and, of course, eating.
The city perfectly blends history, entertainment and the joy of shopping. Even other Moroccans come to shop in Essaouira as it is one of Morocco’s most enticing shopping destinations for those searching for souvenirs, practical items, or something authentic, special, or even unique at reasonable prices often far less than in Marrakech or other big cities and tourist hotspots.
The Best Places To Shop in Essaouira
1. Souk Jdid
Souk Jdid, which translates as “the new bazaar” is a square situated in the centre of Essaouira Medina and is one of the most popular markets with Moroccans and tourists alike. It contains a large number of local vendors providing visitors with the best high-quality goods and a variety of products. This market is known for offering a wide variety of goods at affordable prices, especially if you enjoy a good haggle. You will find antique merchants, souvenir gift stores, wonderful craft gift shops, and fabric stores with materials available in a plethora of striking colours and patterns. The market also features stalls selling accessories and decorations made from beads and gemstones, along with many other products that this distinctive popular bazaar market contains, making it a hotspot amongst those who want to shop in Essaouira.
2. Galerie l’Arbre Bleu
This distinctive exhibition, translating to the Blue Tree Gallery, is housed in a large and beautiful traditional building dating back to the eighteenth century. In this lovely space, one can explore exhibitions featuring both local and European artists. Additionally, you can see and purchase unique jewellery and decorative pieces.
The gallery, which opened in early May of 2008, regularly organizes temporary exhibitions with renowned painters as well as emerging talent. Moreover, upon request, the gallery offers art workshops for both adults and children who are looking to learn the techniques of Moroccan art. Many of the pieces are for sale, so you can help to support local artists and the economy of the region; another good reason to shop in Essaouira.
3. Zidrop Argan Oil
When it comes to Argan oil, Essaouira is always the first place that comes to mind. This city is central to the region where the Argan trees, indigenous to this part of Morocco, thrive and from which Argan oil is extracted. In this local shop, you can obtain this liquid gold in various forms. Argan oil is considered an effective therapeutic substance and is used for massages, in cooking, as well as in cosmetics and hair and skincare products, all of which are available to buy in this wonderful store, allowing you to acquire Argan from its original source which is a must-shop in Essaouira.
4. Galerie La Kasbah
This unique exhibition is located in an enormous ancient riad which is an artwork in itself. Painstakingly restored, it now provides visitors with one of the most prestigious art exhibitions in the city. Spanning an area of 400 square meters, the gallery consists of eleven rooms, each representing four or more artists from different artistic schools, including realism, abstract, symbolism, impressionism, and surrealism. The exhibition features pieces for sale, catering to enthusiasts of traditional art, including furniture, sculptures, ceramics, carpets, bronze items, and other works that narrate the rich and diverse history of the city of Essaouira.
5. Au Petit Bonhomme La Chance, chez Habiba
Habiba’s beautiful store in the heart of the ancient medina of the Moroccan city offers those who desire to shop in Essaouira a range of products and handicrafts fashioned from natural, Moroccan-made leather. Additionally, you can get yourself beautifully designed, temporary henna tattoos that are an important and authentic part of Moroccan culture. You just choose the tattoo design that you like best from a book of intricate, traditional patterns. These motifs are beautiful and you’re sure to find one that captures your attention.
Habiba, or one of her well-trained assistants, also provides advice on soap, hair oils, and dyes.
6. Le Real Mogador
The concept of this distinctive art exhibition is to provide emerging artists, enthusiasts and aspiring professionals the opportunity to showcase their works in a warm and friendly space. The exhibition invites both amateur and professional artists to participate in solo or group exhibitions. During your visit, you will encounter numerous stunning paintings representing various art movements, such as abstract art, conceptual art, and impressionism, characterized by the predominant use of oil and acrylic colours. If you are an art enthusiast, you will undoubtedly appreciate this wonderful place.
7. Essaouira Fish Market
Located on the edge of the city walls, directly adjacent to the harbour, these huts form a rather different sort of market selling a wide variety of fresh fish and other seafood, locally sourced and fresh daily via the little wooden fishing vessels you can see anchored or slowly chugging in and out of the adjacent harbour. In this place, you can purchase your seafood of choice from the market and then have it cooked at one of the nearby small stalls. Here, you can also get a salad that complements your fish dish, along with olives and bread at a small additional cost. Delightful! Revel in this enjoyable and tasty experience.
As you conclude your visit, having had the chance to shop in Essaouira’s captivating markets, from the culturally rich Blue Tree Gallery to the distinctive leathercraft store and the lively seafood huts by the harbour, you’ll find a city where ancient tradition perfectly blends with the modern world. Whether enjoying the history showcased in art exhibitions or savouring the diverse offerings of the local markets, the opportunity to shop in Essaouira welcomes you to an unforgettable experience.
As the sun sets over the Atlantic, the sea breeze carries the echoes of market chatter and the odour of fish, Essaouira bids you farewell with the assurance that its magic will endure in the memories you’ve collected. Until we meet again on these lively streets, happy exploration, and may your memories of Essaouira be as timeless as the goods you’ve bought. Shokhran and farewell!