Essaouira — Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Startharbour: Essaouira
Boarding after: 21.12.2013 00:00
Departure: 23.12.2013 14:00
Port of destination: Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Arrival: 27.12.2013 11:00
Debarkation before:
Days on board: 7


Since ancient times the bay at Essaouira has been considered the best anchorage on the Moroccan coast. The bay is sheltered from the ocean by a small island, providing excellent protection against strong marine winds. Mogador (the ancient name of Essaouira) is believed to have been founded by Hanno the Navigator, a famous Carthaginian explorer. According to Pliny the Elder, back in 500 BC Hanno’s naval forces, consisting of 60 vessels, explored the African coast all the way from Gibraltar to modern Gabon and Congo. The port was actively used by Phoenicians and later by Romans. Under the Romans from around 1st century BC a large purple production facility was established in Essaouira. It was one of the most lucrative crafts at the time. The remains of a prosperous Roman villa still stand nearby.

The 16th century saw Essaouira as a major trade port on the Atlantic coast of Africa and also… a safe haven for pirates. Spanish, English and Dutch all made their claims to the port at different times, but from the 17th century France had the most influence here. At the end of the 18th century sultan Mohammed III decided to turn Essaouira into a new centre for maritime trade as part of his campaign for economical integration with Europe. The city was totally rebuilt with the help of specially invited European architects. New harbour and fortifications were built at this time. The sultan’s plan worked. For the following 200 years Essaouira remained the biggest port in Morocco. Goods from West Africa came via caravan tracks in Sahara to be loaded onto the ships carrying them further to the rest of the world.

The Medina of Essaouira, with its 18th century colonial military architecture, is a UNESCO World Heritage listed city. Today Essaouira is a modern sea resort, popular with the Moroccans and Europeans alike and a centre for kite and windsurfing. The large sheltered bay still attracts people today just like it did many centuries into the past.


After leaving the hospitable harbour of Essaouira, Shtandart will continue south along the coast towards Cape Bojador – the end of the world according to the European beliefs before the Age of Discovery. Medieval Europeans weren’t too sure about what lay beyond this final frontier – a wall, a precipice, may be a gaping mouth of some scary sea monster… Until the expedition of Gil Eanes in 1434 nobody was too keen to find out.

We shall follow the path of the “shield-bearer of Henry the Navigator” (the official title of Gil Eanes) who had forever changed the European perception of the world, but just in case, we shall not go to “the end of the world”… Instead, we shall turn to the west, towards the Canaries. The island of Tenerife will serve as the final point of our “Ocean raid”, our unique discovery journey.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, one of the two main cities of the Canaries, is the capital of the Spanish province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the capital of the Island of Tenerife. Its name comes from the silver cross, installed here by conquistador Alonso Fernandez de Lugo who first set foot on the island in 1494. But the Canaries were populated long before the Spanish arrived, and the mystery of its native people the Guanches to this day intrigues the minds of many historians. How and when did these fair-haired and blue-eyed people, who did not build ships and never sailed (according to the Spanish description) come to settle here on the Canaries? We might never know their story, but we do know what happened to them in the end… Guanches resisted the Spanish and were almost completely destroyed or sold off as slaves. A few that survived converted to Christianity and lost their language and culture.

The Museum of Nature and Man in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, one of the best nature and science museums in Spain, shows the famous Guanches mummies and collections of everyday objects and artefacts from around the world, including ceramics, wood carvings and art from the Pre-Columbian era. It paints a picture of the ‘uncivilised’ world before the Age of Discovery. The location of the museum is no coincidence either – Canary Islands are unique in the world, connecting the three major continents. Many explorers, traders and conquistadors travelling through the Canaries had left their mark and helped form an interesting culture with its peculiar combination of European, African and Latin American features.

Today the Canaries are a major holiday destination, popular all year round, with December being mild and pleasant. Apart from its architecture and historical sights, beautiful scenery and long beaches (the yellow sand for the Playa de Las Teresitas was brought from Sahara), Tenerife is very well known for its water sports industry. Swapping the deck of Shtandart for a kite or surf board and having another ride on the ocean wave… sounds rather appealing, don’t you think?