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The legendary city of Mogador

Behind its powerful ramparts, on an almost island swept by the tropical trade winds, Essaouira keeps all the secrets of the legendary city of Mogador. The breezy city enchants with the exceptional mildness of its climate (20° C on average year round) and the serene charms of its medina. The meeting point of the four elements, the site of Essaouira has been inhabited since the 7th century B.C.E. The commercial activities of this flourishing port date back to Antiquity, when Juba II of Mauritania chose it as the location for his Tyrian purple factories, a precious dye whose trade with Rome was extremely lucrative. The city donned many names in the centuries that followed. First called Amogdul, or “well protected”, this term was then deformed by the Portuguese who pronounced it Mogdura, whereas the French preferred “la mythique Mogador”. The name Essaouira, however means “the pretty picture” or “well drawn” depending on which translation you go with!

Visiting the city of Essaouira

The museum of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah houses precious collections of art and popular traditions native to the region around Essaouira. Its galleries devoted to woodworking and jewellery making reveal the extent of the country’s ancestral know-how and the finesse of the city’s artisan creators. (From the kasbah, take derb Laâlouj)

You cannot come to Essaouira without visiting its medina! The cobblestone roads lines with white and blue homes that reflect all the shades and light of the sea are a refreshing feast for the eyes of any traveller. Don’t be intimidated by the mazelike aspect of the city; you can meander nonchalantly without ever getting lost!

From the medina, take the avenue Mohammed Zerktouni, a picturesque market lies on either side of the street. Near the mosque, take the rue Syaghine and discover the jewellery souk, a real gem (no pun intended)!

The artists’ square is at the end of the avenue Mohammed Zerktouni, near the Bab Doukkala gate. In this casual atmosphere, the city’s painters and musicians have set up their workshops. It is a little place with a lot of character!

To visit Essaouira’s kasbah, head from the Porte de la Marine (the naval door) towards the Moulay El Hassan square. On your left, walk along the ramparts and they will take you through an archway. On the other side lies the artisans quarter. Walking along workshops and stalls, you’ll find beautiful objects carved in ebony or lemon tree wood, the most valuable are embellished with copper. An unbelievable artistry! Keep climbing to the huge esplanade at the top of the sqala, and loose yourself to daydreams faced with this spectacle of sky and ocean: let marine birds gliding between the waves and the trade winds carry you away…

The very lively harbour is located at the tip of the peninsula at the southwest corner of the medina. Go here to witness the parade of boats coming back to port in the end of the morning followed closely by swarms of seagulls. The Criée is about to begin! The port also has a naval yard dedicated to the construction of traditional wood trawlers. To check it out, pass the great Marine Gate, the sqala, the port ramparts and the little crenellated bridge. The “chemin de ronde” or patrol path offers a stunning view over the Purple Isles and Essaouira’s beach.

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Essaouira’s beach

Magnificent! It extends as far as the eye can see and offers beautiful panoramas over the ocean. This is the only place from where you can glimpse the ruins of an ancient Portuguese fortress out in the sea. The beach is a better place for walkers than for swimmers because of the strong winds. Athletic travellers will want to rent a bicycle or go on a horseback ride here!

Practical information

In May, Essaouira celebrates the arrival of the spring trade winds

In June, don’t miss the four day long festival of gnaoua music, for which poets, singers, musicians and dancers gather invited to ass their traditions to the Gnaouas’.

In the end of September, Essaouira hosts the Andalusian Music Festival.

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