Leaving Essaouira, Leaving Africa We have just spent a memorable few days in Essaouira, Morocco. We chose to come to Essaouira as it is one of the largest and most southerly Phoenician/Carthaginian settlements on the African Atlantic coast. The island of Mogador, which flanks the bay of Essaouira, was once inhabited by Phoenicians who carried out three main types of trade as well as more general trade in African goods: the processing and trade in fish, the making of iron implements that were then sold on to markets in West Africa and the making of purple dye from murex shells. Even today the island is often referred to as the “Purple island”.
Today, thousands of tourists visit Essaouira on a daily basis as a pleasant break from the crowds in Marrakesh and enjoy water sports (surfing and kite surfing), the numerous boutiques in the medina that sell excellent leather goods as well as the plentiful array of restaurants and cafes. The main menu items are their excellent seafood, because, as in ancients times, the main activity of the port is the fishing trade. Their fishing fleet has over 20 large vessels and scores of smaller fishing boats. In the early morning the harbour is packed with fishing boats unloading their catches and market stalls. As a result the port has a strong smell of fish and hundreds of seagulls eager to clear up any scraps they can find. Phoenicia was kindly afforded a berth next to the port’s Search and Rescue vessel, all amid the fishing boats and harbour activity.
On Thursday and Friday, the port came to a standstill as the strong winds prevented the fishing fleet from venturing out. By Saturday morning the whole fleet was back at sea as the strong winds had abated. Given the rugby World Cup final was in the morning, we took the opportunity to watch it (a pity about the result!) and then cleared immigration and formalities. We left the port, escorted by the local coastguard vessel, and headed west with a northerly wind on our beam. Once we get further our we will head south west towards Tenerife.
In the meantime, we would like to thank our hosts from the Association Essaouira Mogador for making out visit such a success, in spite of the fact that they were organising the major cultural “Andalusian Atlantic” Festival at the same time. In particular we wish to thank Andre Azoulay, Tarik Ottmani, Mohammad Bourhim, and Florence Belmain Lesage. Also a big thanks to the Port Captain, Customs and Immigration officers for all their assistance, it made our visit go smoothly and was very much appreciated. Finally, thanks to Jean Gabriel Nucci of Ryad Watier for his generosity and support.