One of the most important things to appreciate about Morocco is to regard legends and traditions with caution.  Moroccans are born story tellers and some may welcome association with historical figures or events; embellishing stories and history is not unusual.

Jimi Hendrix,  one of a number of famous western musicians who have visited Essaouira,  flew into Casablanca in 1969 and spent 11 days in Morocco,  which included some time in Essaouira.  He travelled around Morocco by limousine and a chauffeur, and stayed in 3 different hotels, including “Hotel des Iles” in Essaouira,  the most luxurious accommodation in the town at the time.


The scant information above appears to be true;  subsequent events are a little open to interpretation.  The most incredible appear to centre on the small village of Diabat,  3 kilometres south of Essaouira next to the Oued ( river ) Ksob.  Here a ruined Sultan’s palace continues to deteriorate in the sand dunes and directly opposite,  in the village,  a cafe ( perhaps once a hotel ) celebrates Hendrix with many paintings of him.  Legends improbably suggests he stayed in Diabat for as many as the entire 11 nights of his stay in Essaouira with a local woman called Aicha.



One version of the legend suggests he wanted to buy the entire village of Diabat,  but was refused by the local authorities,  so bought the Sultan’s Palace instead where he wrote his famous song Castles Made of Sand.  However, that particular song was actually released in 1967,  some 2 years before he came to Morocco.



Another version of the legend suggests that the Sultan’s Palace soon turned into a hideaway for hippies.  It is suggested that Jimi stayed there maybe once or twice, but never for long. Finally, as a result of several drug-related murders, the police intervende and dispersed Jimi Hendrix’s followers to other cities in other countries.  This is all untrue.



Other false legends suggest that Jimi Hendrix :

  • opened a commune in Morocco with Cat Stevens and Bob Marley
  • made several trips to Morocco,  whereas he only made one
  • ate in Restaurant du Port/Chez Sam in Essaouira whereas the restaurant did not exist in 1969
  • jammed with many local musicians in Essaouira/Morocco;  again this was untrue,  he was on holiday with a girlfriend



Other legends suggest that Jimi Hendrix :

  • met Timothy Leary in Morocco,  untrue
  • fathered many children in Morocco,  untrue,  he was with his girlfriend
  • wanted to buy the island of Mogador off the coast of Essaouira;  untrue
  • like George Washington, slept in many houses in the Moroccan countryside and the people of Morocco have never recovered from his visit;  untrue
  • travelled all over Morocco in a van and slept in this van or a tent;  untrue



This has just been a brief introduction to Jimi Hendrix’s time in Morocco  and Essaouira.  But to be honest there appears to be not much to see.  It is correct that Morocco became something of a lodestone for hippies,  and other famous musicians from that era visited also.  The Rolling Stones,  Cat Stevens,  Robin Williamson,  Graham Nash, Frank Zappa and others all visited.  The song possibly most associated with Hendrix’s visit is Castles Made of Sand,  but any link with Morocco ( in addition to the irrefutable evidence it was released 2 years before he even visited Morocco ) is surely not visible in its lyrics.  The simple truth appears to be that Jimi came with his girlfriend and had a holiday;  any love of Morocco appears not to be reflected in his music.

The most notable lyrics regarding Morocco must include Marrakesh Express written by Graham Nash.  Its lyrics surely evoke the magic of Morocco :

Looking at the world
Through the sunset in your eyes
Trying to make the train
Through clear Moroccan skies
Ducks and pigs and chickens call
Animal carpet wall to wall
American ladies five foot tall in blue.
Sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind
Had to get away to see what we could find
Hope the days that lie ahead
Bring us back to where they’ve led
Listen not to what’s been said to you
Would you know we’re riding
On the Marrakesh Express
Would you know we’re riding
On the Marrakesh Express
All on board that train
I’ve been saving all my money just to take you there
I smell the garden in your hair
Take the train from Casablanca going south
Blowing smoke rings from the corners of my my, my, my, my mouth
Colored cottons hang in air
Charming cobras in the square
Striped Djellebas we can wear at home
Don’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
Don’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
They’re taking me to Marrakesh Express
Don’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
Don’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
They’re taking me to Marrakesh
All on board that train
All on board that train


I have taken some photographs of the Sultan’s Palace sitting directly opposite from the Hendrix Cafe in the sand dunes and will follow up with a blog post including its history,  which in itself is fascinating ( see here ).

The cafe can be found at :

Cafe Hendrix  Chez Hoceine  Diabat



More information ( and sources for information for this blog post )  can be found :