Essaouira’s association with Jimi Hendrix is one of its longstanding and most endearing myths! Although the infamous rock muscian did in fact visit Morocco in 1969 it was his only visit to the country and despite many claims he did not own property there.
Almost every local has a story about how Hendrix touched their lives and this cafe in Diabat has built a whole tourism attraction around him. He was allegedly keen to buy this little Berber village outside of the ‘city of trade winds’. The only problem is he probably never actually visited Diabat, still it is a very colourful and attractive little cafe, great for suspending belief momentarily and immersing oneself in a cult.
He is alleged to have stayed at particular Riads, which he didn’t, eaten in restaurants that did not even exist then and played the guitar he never took with local musicians. He is also supposed to been inspired to write “Castles made of Sand” after seeing the half buried fort ‘Bordj El Berod’ which is exposed at high tide despite the song being released in 1967 almost two years before his visit.
“Like George Washington he slept in everyone’s house around the Moroccan countryside” stated Deering Howe in 2005 who was Hendrix’s companion during his trip to Morocco.
It is quite amazing how such myths materialise and grow. It is understandable that local traders, restauranteurs and hoteliers would want to cultivate some legends, its a sound business strategy. A small but thriving cottage industry has grown up around these myths, there is even a experience page on Facebook, written in French. However this particular legend is happily proliferated by supposedly reliable sources; media, guidebooks and even biographers have perpetuated the myth.
There is even a story that Hendrix, Bob Marley and Cat Stevens started some sort of Moroccan commune although I cannot find any definitive evidence Marley actually visited. However his band the Wailers did participate in the 2004 Gnaoua festival.
Like all good myths there is a seed of truth in it, the man did visit Essaouira during his time in the North African country and just for the record he did actually love Morocco. Sounds like a good recommendation to me, if it’s good enough for Jimi Hendrix it’ll do for me!