Despite its strategic site at the mouth of the great Oum er Rbia River, AZEMMOUR has always been a backwater, and sees fewer tourists than any other Moroccan coastal town, making it a quiet, rather sedate place to visit, and perhaps stay in one of the riads in its whitewashed clifftop Medina.

Once in town, getting your bearings is pretty straightforward. The town lies between the N1 Casablanca–El Jadida highway and the El Jadida coastal road, and red petits taxis constantly ply the route between the two roads. The main thoroughfare is Avenue Mohammed V, which leads to a busy, grassed square, Place du Souk, with the Medina straight ahead.

The Medina

The Portuguese remained in Azemmour long enough to build a circuit of walls, directly above the banks of the river and dramatically extended by the white Medina. The best view of all this – and it is impressive – is from across the river, on the way out of town towards Casablanca.

To look round the Medina, make your way to Place du Souk, on the landward side of the ramparts, where you will see a sixteenth-century gate with an unusual, European-style, semicircular arch. Through it extends the old kasbah – largely in ruins but safe enough to visit. If you wait around, the local gardien will probably arrive, open things up and show you round; if he doesn’t turn up, you might find him by asking at the cafés overlooking Place du Souk. Once inside the ruins, you can follow the parapet wall round the ramparts, with views of the river and the gardens, including henna orchards, along its edge. Also here is Dar el Baroud (The House of Powder), a large tower built over the ruins of an old gunpowder store; note also the ruined Gothic window.

The old Mellah – Azzemour had a substantial Jewish population until the 1960s – lies beyond the kasbah at the northern end of the Medina. Here, beside ramparts overlooking the Oum er Rbia, is the old town synagogue which is still well maintained and visited occasionally by practising Jews from Casablanca and El Jadida. It’s cared for by a local family and you can – for a small donation – look inside to see the tomb of Rabbi Abrahim Moul Niss, a shrine for Jewish pilgrims and the focus of an August moussem.

Haouzia beach

The river currents at Azemmour are notoriously dangerous, but there’s a nice stretch of beach half an hour’s walk or a petit taxi ride (5dh) through the eucalyptus trees beyond the town. If you go by road, it’s signposted to the “Balnéaire du Haouzia”, a small complex of company holiday cabins occupying part of the sands.

For birdwatchers, the scrub dunes around the mouth of the river should prove rewarding territory.