Why is Essaouira in Morocco so obsessed with Jimi Hendrix?

A few weeks before his famous Woodstock performance, Hendrix spent 11 days in the coastal city

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September 18 marks the 50th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's death: both the rock legend’s life and music are now close to mythology for many.

This is evocatively underscored in the Moroccan seaside city of Essaouira, where the guitarist's image is everywhere, from the walls of cafes and hotels to T-shirts in souvenir shops.

The reason for this idolisation is the musical wizard’s 11-day visit, which is said to have taken place in July 1969.

Riding high from the success of his masterpiece Electric Ladyland album, and a few weeks away from that conquering Woodstock performance, Hendrix was understandably looking for a place to chill.

And he couldn’t have found a better spot than Essaouira.

Facing the Atlantic Ocean, it has built a reputation over the last six decades as a bohemian paradise, and has welcomed a slew of rock legends looking for rest and recreation after weary world tours.

Essaouira’s guest list reads like a who's who of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: The Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, Bob Morrison, Jefferson Airplane and Cat Stevens all spent time soaking up the sunshine on its famed beaches.

A picture taken in the Moroccan coastal city of Essaouira shows portraits of late US guitarist Jimi Hendrix on September 10, 2020. On September 18, 2020 people the world over are preparing to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the guitar hero who died in  london hotel room after choking on his own vomit after a lethal cocktail of Red wine and sleeping pill. / AFP / FADEL SENNA

However, none have captured the imagination of the population, now nearing 77,000 people, as much as Hendrix.

While there are no official images of Hendrix spending time in Essaouira, the city is full of elderly citizens who recall his supposed exploits like it was yesterday.

"I saw him here. He was young and carried a guitar on his back," Mohammed Boulala told AFP. "He visited friends who were staying in the village. It was the last time that we saw him."

Also remembering the rocker is 72-year-old Abdelaziz Khaba, who told AFP he lost a photo that he snapped with Hendrix. "He looked in good shape," he said. "He was surrounded by hefty bodyguards."

What did Hendrix do while in Essaouira? Well, some claim he tried to buy an island off the coast, or the village of Diabat. Others say he composed Castles Made of Sand while there (however, the track was released two years prior).

But biographer Caesar Glebbeek seemed unsure, having reportedly said that Hendrix's short stay "produced a mountain of erroneous information and fictitious stories.”

That said, something special must have happened to spark the city’s enduring love affair with the rock legend who chose to cool down in Morocco before sadly burning out and passing away a mere 14 months later.