It is the coastal wind – the beautifully named alizee, or taros in Berber – that has allowed Essaouira (essa-weera, or es-sweera in Arabic) to retain its traditional culture and character. For most of the year, the wind blows so hard here that relaxing on the beach is impossible, meaning that the town is bypassed by the hordes of beach tourists who descend on other Atlantic Coast destinations in summer. Known as the ‘Wind City of Africa’, it attracts plenty of windsurfers between April and November, but the majority of visitors come here in spring and autumn to wander through the spice-scented lanes and palm-lined avenues of the fortified medina, browse the many art galleries and boutiques, relax in some of the country's best hotels and watch fishing nets being mended and traditional boats being constructed in the hugely atmospheric port.
Essaouira lies on the crossroads between two tribes: the Arab Chiadma to the north and the Haha Berbers in the south. Add to that the Gnawa, who came originally from further south in Africa, and the Europeans, and you get a rich cultural mix.