Essaouira - A Fortified Town - The Traveller


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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Essaouira - A Fortified Town

Essaouira is an exceptional piece of late 18th century fortified town which was built according to the European contemporary of military architecture in North African context and is surrounded by a wall influenced by the Vauban model. Since its foundation, it has been a major international seaport trading center connecting Morocco and sub Saharan African with Europe and the rest of the globe.

Essaouira is a city in the western Moroccan region of Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz on the Atlantic coast and the city had been known by its Portuguese name of Mogador or Mogadore since the 16th century. Archaeological indicate that Essaouira had been occupied since prehistoric period and the bay at Essaouira was partially sheltered by the island of Mogador which made it a peaceful harbor protecting it against strong marine winds.

This destination had been considered as one of the best anchorages of the Moroccan coast and the Carthaginian navigator, Hanno who visited this place in the 5th century BC established the trading post of Arambys. During the middle Ages, a Muslim saint by the name Sidi Mogdoul was buried in Essaouira and this could probably be the origin to the name Mogador.

Cultural and Natural Sites

The Mogador archipelago consists of a huge number of cultural and natural sites of Outstanding Universal Value and its relatively late foundation when compared to other medina of North Africa was the outcome of the Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdullah whose desire was to make this small Atlantic town a royal port as well as the chief Moroccan commercial centre which would be open to the outside world.

For a long time Essaiuira was known as the Port of Timbuktu and became one of the major Atlantic commercial centers between Africa and Europe by the end of the 18th century and during the 19th century. It was during the 18th century that the present city was built by Mohammed III with the intention of reorienting his kingdom towards the Atlantic for increased exchanges with European powers choosing Mogadore as his main location.

His objective was to establish a harbor at the nearest point from Marrakesh and the other was to cut off trade from Agadir in the south which was supporting the political rival of Mohammad III and the inhabitants of Agadir had to forcibly relocate to Essaouira.

UNESCO Listed World Heritage Site

The first thing any tourist feels is walking around the fortification which is a sheer temptation and from the Kasbah’s Sqala, the old artillery platform of the medina’s maritime rampart, the scene over the port’s Sqala together with the ocean’s coastline and the medina which is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site is simply awesome.

In the souks, at street levels, which surround the Clock tower, one will find some of Morocco’s best marquetry craftsmen fashion sandarac wood along with ancestral precision. Close to the medina’s Sqala is the Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah museum, presenting beautiful collection of regional art works and marquety furniture, costumes, jewelry rugs and much more.

Besides these there are also Arabo Andalusian and Gnaoua musical instruments which are accompanied by singing and dancing promoted at an international festival every year in the month of June with programs that include jazz and world music.

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