In the days when it thrived as Morocco’s principal port, its labyrinthine medina would have been a haven for wheelers and dealers of spices and exotic goods, and in the 20th century these twisting passageways attracted westerners in search of the exotic, from Hollywood - as the backdrop for Orson Welles adaptation of Othello in 1949 - to 60s hippies, from Dylan to Hendrix.
Today, it's considered a classic example of a late 18th-century fortified town, transferred to North Africa by European colonists, and listed by UNESCO. With its characteristic whitewashed and blue-shuttered buildings, it has retained its mystical charm and has diversified to become a multicultural centre with galleries and small arts and crafts businesses.
Every June, the Gnaoua Music Festival is a major attraction, and thousands of tourists flock in to stay at the beautiful riads of the medina for a unique musical extravaganza. Trade winds reach the shore over the flat sandy bay providing perfect conditions for wind and kite–surfers, while surfing is also popular on the many wave spots along the coast. Even without the beautiful architecture, world music and coastal adventure, Essaouira provides a beautiful resort to just chill out, fill the senses with spicy scents and colourful sights, gorge on the wonderful cuisine and pamper oneself in a warm hamman.