170km (105 miles) SW of Casablanca; 193km (120 miles) NW of Marrakech; 195km (121 miles) NE of Essaouira
Midway between the port cities of El Jadida and Safi, Oualidia (pronounced "Wa-lid-ee-ah") is a small fishing and holiday resort overlooking one of the finest natural lagoons of the North African coastline. It's a perfect spot to break a journey between the bustling northern centers of Tangier, Rabat, and Casablanca, and the southern tourist hot spots of Marrakech, Essaouira, and Agadir. Named after the Saâdian Sultan el Oulalid -- whose 17th-century kasbah sits in ruins on a wooded hillside overlooking the lagoon -- this former sleepy village is famous for its seafood, caught nightly by a small fleet of local fishermen, and its oysters, farmed along the lagoon's shores since the late 1950s. More than 200 tons of oysters are produced annually, most for local consumption, and a small selection of lagoon-side hotel-restaurants specialize in serving the succulent flesh for the cheapest prices in Morocco. Oualidia is a popular summer holiday destination; from late June to early September, both Moroccans and Europeans flock to the lagoon and its sheltered shore, as well as the adjacent beach facing the open sea. Besides the seafood and oysters, they come to enjoy a variety of watersports such as surfing, sailing, and fishing; the festive atmosphere; nightlong music and dance; and endless cups of mint tea, all of which make up for the lack of secluded sunbathing. The beaches can get very crowded during these months, but come at any other time of the year, and you'll have the beautiful surroundings to yourself.