The Medina of Essaouira, formerly named Mogador (name originating from the Phoenician word Migdol meaning a « small fortress »), is an outstanding example of a fortified town of the mid-eighteenth century, surrounded by a wall influenced by the Vauban model.
Constructed according to the principles of contemporary European military architecture, in a North African context, in perfect harmony with the precepts of Arabo-Muslim architecture and town-planning, it has played a major role over the centuries as an international trading seaport, linking Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa with Europe and the rest of the world.
The town is also an example of a multicultural centre as proven by the coexistence, since its foundation, of diverse ethnic groups, such as the Amazighs, Arabs, Africans, and Europeans as well as multiconfessional (Muslim, Christian and Jewish).
Indissociable from the Medina, the Mogador archipelago comprises a large number of cultural and natural sites of Outstanding Universal Value.
Its relatively late foundation in comparison to other medinas of North Africa was the work of the Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah (1757-1790) who wished to make this small Atlantic town a royal port and chief Moroccan commercial centre open to the outside world.
Known for a long time as the Port of Timbuktu, Essaouira became one of the major Atlantic commercial centres between Africa and Europe at the end of the 18th century and during the 19th century.
Excerpt from UNESCO World Heritage Centre
Essaouira (Arabic: الصويرة, eṣ-ṣauīrah; formerly known as Mogador, its older name) is a city and tourist resort on the Atlantic coast.
Archaeological research shows that Essaouira has been occupied since prehistoric times.
Essaouira has long been considered as one of the best anchorages of the Moroccan coast. The Carthaginian navigator Hanno visited and established a trading post there in the 5th century BC. Around the end of the 1st century BC or early 1st century AD, Juba II established a Tyrian purple factory, processing the murex and purpura shells found in the intertidal rocks at Essaouira and the Iles Purpuraires. This dye colored the purple stripe in Imperial Roman Senatorial togas.
During the Middle Ages, a muslim saint named Sidi Mogdoul was buried in Essaouira. In 1506, the king of Portugal ordered a fortress to be built there, named "Castelo Real de Mogador". The fortress fell to the local resistance of the Regraga fraternity four years later.
During the 16th century, various powers including Spain, England, the Netherlands and France tried in vain to conquer the locality. Essaouira remained a haven for the export of sugar molasses and the anchoring of pirates.
The actual city of Essaouira was only built during the 18th century. Mohammed III, wishing to reorient his kingdom towards the Atlantic for increased exchanges with European powers, chose Mogador as his key location. He hired a French engineer, Théodore Cornut, and several other European architects and technicians, to build the fortress along modern lines. Originally called "Souira", "The small fortress", the name then became "Es-Saouira", "The beautifully designed".
Essaouira is protected by a natural bay partially shielded by wave action by the Iles Purpuraires. A broad sandy beach extends from the harbour south of Essaourira, at which point the Oued Ksob discharges to the ocean; south of the discharge lies the archaeological ruin, the Bordj El Berod.
The Canary Current is responsible for the generally southward movement of ocean circulation and has led to enhancement of the local fishery.
The village of Diabat lies about two kilometres south of Essaouira, immediately south of the Oued Ksob.
The Medina of Essaouira (formerly "Mogador") is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed city, as an example of a late 18th century fortified town, as transferred to North Africa.
The fishing harbour, suffering from the competition of Agadir and Safi remains rather small, although the catches (sardines, conger eels) are surprisingly abundant due to the coastal upwelling generated by the powerful trade winds and the Canaries Current.
Tourism is of growing importance, supporting boutique hotels established in traditional Moroccan riads, within the old town's ramparts. There are a number of modern purpose-built hotels, running along the beach. The medina is home to many small arts and crafts businesses, notably cabinet making and 'thuya' wood-carving (using roots of the Tetraclinis tree), both of which have been practised in Essaouira for centuries.
Essaouira is also renowned for its kitesurfing and windsurfing, with the powerful trade wind blowing almost constantly onto the protected, almost waveless, bay. Several world-class clubs rent top-notch material on a weekly basis.
Parasols tend to be used on the beach as a protection against the wind and the blowing sand. Camel excursions are available on the beach and into the desert band in the interior.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia