A visit to the port city of Essaouira, Morocco is not complete without a freshly prepared seafood meal at a local grill. Check out the colourful fishing boats as the pull in the daily catch, head through the alleyways to the local seafood market to select your favourites then walk deeper into the maze of alleys with your fresh seafood to a find a grill where you can have your meal cooked and served family style. It’s a delicious, relaxing way to cap off a day in Essaouira.
The port city of Essaouira, Morocco
Essaouira is a port city in western Morocco on the Atlantic coast. With a laid-back atmosphere, you can spend a relaxing day strolling the beaches, visiting local art galleries, and browsing through the local shops to take in the culture of Essaouira, then end the day with a fresh seafood meal.
I spent a few days in Essaouira while on a small group tour, and one of the highlights was a simple and delicious seafood lunch. From fishing boat to your plate, you can follow all of the steps of your food in just a matter of hours!
The fishing boats and docks
The fishing port is a serious commercial operation where you can watch the workers pull in their fresh daily catch of assorted seafood early in the morning.
As you stroll along the docks you’ll see all sizes of colourful boats, including traditional wooden boats, docked or in the water, plus seagulls and cats all vying for some of the catch.
If you plan to wander close to the boats be sure to wear covered shoes with good traction because it will probably be wet, muddy, and maybe even a bit fishy underfoot. If you get there early enough you may even see the workers unload the boats and watch the auction as they sell the daily catch.
I recommend taking the time to stroll through and maybe even meet some of the folks after a morning of fishing. Just remember that they are working and may or may not have the time to indulge in a lengthy conversation.
If the smell of the ocean and fresh fish isn’t to your liking, maybe skip the docks and stick closer to the food stalls where you can sample some street food, freshly squeezed juice and snacks.
The seafood market
Continue your exploration through the narrow alleyways to get to the seafood market.
As you get closer to the market your nose will let you know! The Essaouira seafood market is quite a sensory experience – lots of people and cats, the smell of fresh seafood, it’s a bit wet everywhere and as you go from stall to stall you’ll see fish being cleaned and prepped for sale.
Walk through the market to see what’s available that day and then select some freshly caught fish or seafood to be the centrepiece of your meal. You’ll get your choices in plastic bags that you can take to a local grill to be cooked for you.
This is where you may need some guidance. Talk to your hotel or a local guide to get a restaurant or grill recommendation for authentic Essaouira cuisine. They can be a bit tough to find if you don’t know where to go and what to look for. If I wasn’t with our local guide I’m not sure I would have figured out by the pictures on the sandwich board sign that it was my destination.
All you need to do is take your bags of ready-to-cook seafood to one of the restaurants, select how you want it cooked, and then wait for your meal. It’s that simple. Language was a bit of a barrier and we weren’t sure how to ask for our food to be prepared so we just let the restaurant choose.
Our meal included fresh crusty bread, olives, and a chopped salad to start plus our seafood cooked to perfection in a variety of spices, all served family-style.
The restaurant we went to was basic with simple wooden tables & chairs, and paper placemats for our food. The whole process was an experience that was definitely worth it, and a relaxing way to spend a day in Essaouira. From ocean to plate, the seafood is so fresh and delicious!