Kick off your Essaouira tour under the iconic clocktower to begin a journey back in time and tradition. Weave through the medina to visit azaouia, or temple of the Gnawa people, a sacred place reserved for traditional lila rituals, often performed to treat psychological ills, drive out evil spirits, or remedy scorpion stings. These lilas still take place and usually last all night long and into the wee hours of the morning.
Follow a kuyu, or Gnawa dancer, to his private home for some tea and a demonstration of the sometimes acrobatic Gnawa dance moves, accompanied by an explanation of their typical clothing. Often made at home, these intricate designs are unique to the Gnawa performers and include bold colours, embroidery, and cowrie shells.
Our Essaouira tour continues the private quarters of a maalem, or Master, to learn about the making of the guembri. This lute-like instrument is the base of all Gnawa music and you’ll get to learn how it’s made and hear it played. Rarely do outsiders get invited into these personal spaces, generally reserved for Gnawi, musicians and their friends. Despite often having no formal training, the maalem, the leader of any Gnawa troupe, is highly studied in the rhythm, emotion, and sound of the guembri and its songs. They grow up in families and circles of musicians or healers, learning the calls and chants from an early age. Maalem are highly respected in Essaouira and have much traditional knowledge to share.
Finish the evening as hip locals do in Essaouira — chilling at a local music spot, grooving to soulful music that fuses Gnawa with Jazz, Latin, Reggae, and more. Your local guide can recommend where to have dinner or carry on the night, if you’re so inclined!
Inclusions: Local English-speaking guide, tea, Gnawa demonstrations/performances.
Exclusions: Personal shopping, tips / gratuities.
Dress standard: As we will be entering sacred and private spaces, please be considerate of local tradition and wear appropriate clothing. We recommend covering the shoulders to the knees for both men and women. As we will walk over some uneven terrain, comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Evenings can be cold so a warm layer is advisable. An umbrella, rain jacket and close toed shoes may be necessary in January and February.
Confirmation of booking: If you have your voucher, your booking is confirmed. We'll see you at the start point.
Get in touch if you have any concerns or require more information via the email address or phone number (business hours only) on your voucher.
Additional Information: We believe in Responsible Travel. A reusable bag is recommended to carry any purchases and reduce plastic bag waste.
Closure of sites: If there are any sites visited on the trip that can be closed at limited prior notice for any reason. Eg for official visitations, please provide comment and the alternate site that will be visited.
Child Policy: This is a child-friendly tour, but is not stroller-friendly. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 inclusively are permitted on this tour at the rate listed above. Please select ‘child’ above when booking. Children under the age of 6 are permitted to join this tour free of charge. Please inform us at the time of booking if you’ll be bringing a child under the age of 6. You can do so in the special request box on the checkout page. Please note that this tour may include narrow stairs and tight spaces, and is therefore not suitable for strollers.