Essaouira, a fortified town on the Atlantic coast, was literally a breath of fresh air as the temperature was downright pleasant with a cool breeze sweeping through the labyrinthine medina, not to mention a fantastic sandy beach. After a week traversing the desert everybody enjoyed some free time and a chance to pamper themselves at one of the abundant hamams, or bathhouses. For a very reasonable price, you could either just visit the steam room and bath or have the full works of a ghassoul (black soap) wrap, a body scrub which stripped off more dead skin than I felt comfortable seeing, a massage and finally a pedicure and manicure.
Essaouira has the reputation of being a “hippie town” since the 60s and today it’s still full of art galleries and hosts music festivals. The medina felt very authentic, too, with carpenters making amazing intarsia table tops, herbalists and silversmiths. The cats here were noticeably larger than their inland cousins, and some where outright chubby, no doubt due to the large fishing harbour just outside the old town. Hundreds of literally identical wooden boats lay moored and it’s hard to imagine how anyone can tell them apart!