Essaouira - Cooking Class

Ess-Cook1We visited L’Association Féminine de Bienfaisance El Khir (A.F.B.K) for a cooking class. The AFBK is an association that assists vulnerable women in Essaouira. They can take classes in literacy, French and English, commercial cooking, introductory finance and computers, and others to assist in creating social autonomy and gaining employment. The Association also provides medical and psychological support, hygiene education and a legal service. They also offer a catering service where the students can build their confidence while also earning an income.

The AFBK also offer classes to tourists including cooking and pastry classes. We have opted to take the Tagine class (there was also a class in couscous). The Tagine class was hosted by Hanan with Janne (a volunteer from Germany) translating for us. Tagine is a Berber dish that is named after the earthenware vessel it is cooked in, and we would call it a stew, and is a very common offering throughout Morocco.

Ess-Cook2Ours is a simple dish consisting of Beef, Onion, Coriander, Potatoes, Tomato, Beans, Zucchini, Carrots and spices (turmeric, ginger, pepper & salt). It is constructed in stages so you can prepare the ingredients as you go, and takes about an hour to complete. The beef is placed in the bottom of the Tagine with finely diced red onion, drizzled in Argan oil and sprinkled with spice with finely chopped coriander then placed on the stove. You need to lift the lid every 5 minutes or so to ensure the meat isn’t sticking to the bottom. Carrots are peeled, then chopped into 0.5cm slices and placed in with the other ingredients. Thickly sliced Zuccchini and peeled potato were placed into a bowl of water to soak. Peel the tomato and dice. Cut the beans and boil in salted water. After around 20 minutes you may need to start adding water to the Tagine. Around 30 minutes in or once the meat is cooked place the sliced potatoes in a circle in the Targine (but not in the centre). Ten minutes later take the boiled beans and place them in the centre and cover with diced tomato. Five to ten minutes after that, layer the zucchini throughout the Tagine and spoon some of the sauce over everything and simmer. Some twenty minutes later you have a beautifully flavoured meal to enjoy with fresh bread.


I heartily recommend taking a cooking class as it gives you the opportunity to witness the art of the Tagine.

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Essouira - Guided Walks

Essaouira - Guided Walks


We organised a couple of walks with Ecotourisme et Randonees through their restaurant La Découverte (See Essouira) We had met two Danish women in Marrakech whom we encountered again in the Medina. Over dinner we organised to do the half day Sidi M’Bark with them, as well as a full day visit to a local Market and walk through the surrounding countryside for the day after. 

Ess-SidiMbarkWalk1 Ess-SidiMbarkWalk4

The Sidi M’Bark (220MAD per person) walk is located a 30 minute drive south from Essaouira. The weather is a beautiful 20 degrees and the wind is low presenting perfect conditions to enjoy the outdoors. It is gentle walk through Argan trees before heading down to the beach. The beach is lined with dunes, and the Atlantic is constantly rolling onto the patterned shore. At the end of the beach is a tranquil limestone cove with a small waterfall. The rocky walls of the cove contain small fossils of bivalves and other small aquatic creatures. A short distance uphill from the cove is a village where we had morning tea – Mint Tea and cake – with a Berber family before crossing the hills back to the car with an exquisite elevated view of the beach and terraced farmland. All up we were out for 3 hours, 2 of which were spent wandering the area. Our guide Ottmane provided excellent commentary on the area and a great person to spend time with (so much so, we took him out for coffee to spend more time talking with him).



Essaouira Sidi M;Bark Walk

The Market day walk (450 MAD) is available every Wednesday and starts 30 minutes from Essaouira at Ida Ougourd. Ottmane was our guide again, although Edouard (the owner) also accompanied the group providing commentary in French. The market serves the needs of the local community, travelling up to 10 kilometres to get their supplies. Most of the villagers do not own a car so they utilise a donkey, which are “parked” nearby. You can get most things you need here including fruits and vegetables, animal feed, homewares, clothing and electronics. We walked for 1 ½ kilometres through and around the market. After a glass of mint tea and an interesting conversation with a volunteer with a Moroccan NGO (, we drove to a nearby Argan plantation.

The Argan forest is rocky and sparsely forested but expansive and also includes fields of wheat and barley as well as the occasional Olive and Fig tree. Some of these areas are government owned and operated under licence, while other areas are owned privately. Othmane explained to us that the fruit is collected from the Argan tree only when it has fallen to the ground and that each tree produces 15-60 kilograms of fruit. To produce a litre of oil for food, around 35kg of fruit must be collected. For cosmetic use, it is significantly more.


 The walk takes us past a saint’s tomb (called a marabon), and to an area that was once used as a reservoir filled by a 25 kilometre aqueduct built in 1678 for a sugar refinery that only operated for 25 years.  The ruins of the aqueduct and refinery are still present and are excellent to walk through. Othmane kept us well informed as he guided us through the area to the homestead where we took lunch of Tagine, Mandarins, Cake. Othmane also provided us with a demonstration of how to make Mint Tea.


Argon Forest Walk

After the 5 ½ kilometre walk, we drove to Cooperative Maryama D’Huile D’Argan where we were shown the manufacture process of Argan Oil. It is a labour intensive process and today there around 20 women involved in various stages of manufacture.



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Essouira - Cooking Class



Essaouira is 170 kilometres west of Marrakech, and takes around 3 hours to reach by bus. The area has been occupied for thousands of years with evidence of prehistoric settlement, a Phoenician and  Carthaginian trading post, Roman & Berber settlements, it is the site of the burial of Muslim Saint Sidi Mogdoul (after whom the area was named Mogador), and was a Portuguese outpost in the 16th century which fell to the local resistance in 1510. It wasn’t until the 18th century however that the city I am visiting today began to take shape under the rule of Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah.

The city was designed by a French engineer, Theodore Cornut, with the aim of establishing a coastal trading centre close to Marrakech and remained the principal port until the 19th century. The name of the city means “Beautifully Designed”.

The city has earned many myths regarding 20th century icons staying here. Orson Welles directed the 1952 film version of Othello here. Jimi Hendrix was here in 1967. There are stories of Frank Zappa, Cat Stevens and Bob Marley, and these resonate through the city with Reggae, Jazz and Rock being played in the Souks.


The medina is surrounded by mediaeval ramparts. The wind is ever present here, and when the wind and tide are high together, the ocean swells dramatically generating impressive waves that crash into the surrounding rocks.


We have come to Essaouira to relax and get a feel for Morocco before we head out through the High Atlas then north with our guide. One thing that Essaouira taught us immediately on arriving was that you everything is closer than it appears on a map. We got off the Supratours bus and within minutes were in the Medina and then at our Riad. The Map of the Medina makes it seem expansive and labyrinthine like our first experience in Marrakech, but the reality is smaller and quite easy to navigate.

The Medina starts to come alive between 9 & 10am, with the Souks opening, then after 7pm the medina changes – Most restaurants open, the main stalls begin to close and new vendors take over offering goods for the teeming locals, quiet streets become football fields for children, small groups of people stroll, and occasionally you stumble across a food cart. As we are here in the low season, there are not many venues offering live music but there are a few offerings including some Gnaoua (an African Blues).

Essaouira also has many barbers in the Medina who give an excellent shave. When it comes to shopping, Essaouira has a great deal to offer.

There are artist cooperatives throughout the medina who offer hand crafted pieces at set prices. Shopping with collectives avoids bartering but also ensures that the money goes to the artist rather than through middlemen. Sometimes the prices are better than what you get in the souks and sometimes not. We bought some Thuya from La Coopérative artisinale de thuya.

Essaouira has a small museum in the medina, 10 MAD entry, that offers some interesting history of the area as well as special exhibitions, and even though it is all in French, there is a lot that can be learned.

There are many restaurants in the Medina, most offering very similar tourist fare, but we did find a few standouts.

Ess-RoyalCousCousLa Découverte was excellent. The menu is Moroccan influenced and based on locally sourced ingredients. They also have daily specials providing some beautiful alternatives. Every Monday they offer Royal couscous with camel meat which tastes brilliant. It is delicate dish of caramelised onion, olives and camel meat over Couscous. We also tried the Pigeon Pastilla which was delicate and sweet. Rarely have I left a restaurant completely satisfied, but Frederique & Edouard provide an excellent experience. Not only is the food good, but they are wonderful hosts with a great sense of humour.

Triskala offers a limited vegetarian menu that changes daily with stylish music oriented decor where you eat in nooks of various sizes. What sets Triskala apart is their ethos. Most entrees are 25 MAD, mains 50 MAD, and deserts 25 MAD. The portions are large and very tasty, while not standard Moroccan fare it is worth the visit for taste, ambience and wonderful hospitality.

As Essaouira is a fishing town, you can’t go past the fish markets for a lunch. They offer set prices and you get to select the particular fish you want to eat. It is grilled without seasoning so you get to enjoy the taste of the day’s catch. When you enter the markets, hawkers will do everything they can to get you to choose their tent over the others, but don’t worry, everything here is good and the price the same.

Ess-ChwarmaStreet vendors offer Chwarma, Crepes, cream cakes and pastries, boiled Mussels and more. What we tried was excellent quality and quite cheap. There is a good variety of fresh fruit available at great prices- 1kg of strawberries for 20MAD, Bananas 4 MAD, Mandarines 1.5 MAD.

Essaouira is a wonderful place to relax and explore. 5 days here is plenty of time to explore and relax, and by the end you will be very satisfied with the experience.

See Also:

Essouira - Guided Walks

Essouira - Cooking Class

Other Experiences in Morocco:
Marrakech to Imil
The Route of a Thousand Kasbahs
A Walk in the Dades Gorge
A Night at Erg Chebbi, the Sahara
The Middle Atlas

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