During the 18th century, 40 percent of the Atlantic Sea traffic passed through Essaouira. It became known as the port of Timbuktu, being the destination of sub-Saharan Africa caravans bringing goods for export to Europe.
The shipyard bustles today with fishmongers mending nets, sorting fishhooks, and tipping cartloads of ice into grimy wooden boats while vessel builders swing hammers at curved wooden hulls, and paint the boats the traditional brilliant blue.
Locals in hooded cloaks and pointed slippers sit and inspect rows of strangely shaped, twitching fish displayed on the cobbles or boat bottoms. The magnificent blue vessels line and cluster the old port as gulls squawk in masses overhead and the stench of fish pervades the marina.
Today the port of Essaouira provides a living for 500 families.