A Game of Thrones Day Trip to Essaouira, Morocco
The only people I’ve met recently who have seen Game of Thrones and don’t love it are those who have smugly read the books already, and obviously nothing can ever beat the books! I considered reading them, but my favourite part of the TV show is the fact I have no idea what will happen next.
Is there a point, or is just a Game of Thrones (often abbreviated to G.o.T) fan boy’s ramblings on the book/TV show debate? Probably a bit of both, but before we get to Essaouira let me tell you about something you might be lucky enough to see on the way – the other G.o.T… Goats on Trees!
Our day trip to Essaouira really got interesting when the bus pulled up on what seemed like a typical stretch of Moroccan highway, except there was nothing normal about what we were about to witness. At first I thought the goats must have been forced up there by the farmers so they could make a quick dirham (that’s Moroccan for money), but apparently they are up there on their own accord, the argan berries that reside in these trees are fine dining to goats, and they’ll balance precariously on branches for hours to eat them. It’s the equivalent of us humans waiting in line for an age to get some chocolate milk (this actually happened in New Zealand), I guess most species in the animal kingdom will go to great lengths for something tasty. The tree goats were a fun diversion on the way to Essaouira – my girlfriend even got to hold a baby one for a 5 MAD fee.
After stopping for about an hour at an argan oil factory/shop, we finally made it Essaouira, a stunning seaside city with a long beach and exotic medina. Medinas in Morocco are like old towns in Europe – they are usually the most historical and interesting parts of town, and the one in Essaouira is Game of Thrones worthy, so you know it’s good!
Scala du Port
Slightly down the coast from the medina, through an army of seagulls, lies an old tower, apparently modelled on the Belém Tower in Lisbon. The walkway to the tower (the walk of punishment on Game of Thrones) is lined with cannons, but it was ammunition of a different kind we were trying to avoid. I hate seagulls, and try as we may, we both ended up victims of those evil birds. We got some great views from the top of the tower, and after cleaning away any evidence of our run in with the seagulls, we were on our way. There is a harbour packed full of small blue boats near the fortress, but we wanted to take sanctuary far from the enemy, and annoyingly, we didn’t make it back there.
I grew to love medinas in Morocco. From the mazy alleys of Fez, to the blue soaked town of Chefchaouen, they are always an explosion of life and colour (and scam artists!). The medina in Essaouira is another unique example, and it’s definitely the best looking from the outside. The main activities in any medina are getting lost in narrow streets and lanes, and shopping. It’s pretty small compared to a lot of medinas in Morocco, but the colour mixed in with the city walls and seaside location gives it an exotic atmosphere.
“Hey, nice camel!”
Shopping is usually a stressful experience in Morocco, but we found that Essaouira was slightly more relaxed than most other cities. We bought a few things; including a leather camel we eventually named Tajine (it’s our favourite Moroccan food). After buying him, almost every shop keeper we passed would yell out “Hey, nice camel!” which was funny for a start but eventually became annoying. We also bought a present for my nearly 2 year old niece in New Zealand, but on the off chance she’s reading this (you never know, she might be fan), I won’t ruin the surprise for her.
The city walls
You can climb up the city walls, but the views aren’t quite as good as you’d expect, so I decided to exit the medina and walk around the rocks to where the walls meet the ocean. I had to climb over a small concrete wall, walk past some dodgy looking guys and then climb over some trash covered rocks. It wasn’t really worth it – the view from the fortress is a lot better! There’s also a beach near the medina, but as it was too cold to swim we didn’t spend a lot of time there (the water didn’t look great either).
Game of Thrones
Essaouira became the city of Astapor on Game of Thrones, and some scenes featuring King’s Landing were also filmed there. Astapor, if you’re memory is as bad as mine, is where Daenerys (the woman with the dragons) acquires the Unsullied Army.
Further reading (and watching): Haven’t seen Game of Thrones yet? You need to!
A day trip to Essaouira: The details
As we were just going on a day trip to Essaouira, we opted for a tour, which really wasn’t a tour. They just dropped us off in Essaouira (after the argan oil shop of course) and told us to meet back at the bus a few hours later. We went on the tour as it would have worked out the same price to take the CTM or Supratour bus, and we probably wouldn’t have seen the goats on trees if we had have taken one of those buses. There are local buses that go from Marrakech to Essaouira, but apparently they take a lot longer.
Would you like to go on a day trip to Essaouira? Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Which filming locations have you seen? Let me know!