Essaouira, in Morocco, is a beautiful city located on the Atlantic coast. Known in the past as Mogador, it is one of the most requested excursions from Marrakech. And it is that, for that traveler who likes to soak up the traditions and echoes of the past, this is an unforgettable visit.
Essaouira in Morocco, a legendary city
This was the land of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and, later, the Portuguese. Peoples and great Mediterranean civilizations of navigators. It was also the point of arrival for ancient caravans of slave, ambergris, ebony and fur traders arriving from Timbuktu.
The old Mogador It has been the scene of legendary movies and a place of refuge for bohemians, musicians and artists of all time. In fact, Essaouira, its current name, means “small image” in Arabic, as it is the ideal place dreamed of by painters.
Its walls with pink reflections, its white houses, its dunes and the cobalt blue of its windows and boats make this place a picture that you will not be able to stop photographing.
A melting pot of cultures, where Jews, Muslims and European merchants lived together for more than two centuries. An idyllic spot to enjoy art, festivals and its immense sandy beaches that, together with its wonderful winds, delight surfers from all over the world.
Essaouira is a tourist destination in itself, although it is very common to meet her on an excursion of one or more days from Marrakech. If you are going to travel to the imperial and exotic Red City, do not leave without having visited Essaouira. Come with us, we’ll tell you.
A little history
Its original name was the Berber Amogdul, which means “the well-designed one. From the 5th century BC it was under the rule of the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians.
Later passed into the hands of the Roman Empire, at a time when this city was called Thamusida. Back then it was well known for capturing the mollusk that produced the highly prized royal purple dye. A widely used color in the area.
In the year 533 it passed into the domain of the Byzantine Empire. from the 7th to the 10th century, the Berbers of Mogador fought against the rule of the Umayyad dynasty. But it was finally incorporated into the Almoravid empire in the 11th century.
four centuries later the Portuguese invaded it and it was renamed Mogador. Until the Portuguese army was defeated and the city passed back to Arab rule. This time, under the Alaouite dynasty.
It was under the leadership of the Alaouite sultan Ben Adballah that the city of Mogador was completely restored. The port became the most important in the kingdom and at the Timbuktu sea gate. Mogador became the bridge between Africa and the rest of the world.
The time of this sultanate was marked by the harmonious coexistence of Berbers, Jews, Arabs, Saharans and Portuguese. After, this beautiful city saw its decline until the 20th century. It was in this century that artists, pop stars and adventurers of all kinds found their inspiration in Essaouira.
Essaouira: the tourist getaway
Known as the windy city by surfersthis Moroccan city boasts of marvelous dunes, kilometer-long beaches of fine sand and a perfect climate throughout the year.
Unesco declared Essaouira, in Morocco, a World Heritage Site in 2001. The fortress, the fishing port, its endless beach, a labyrinthine medina and its gastronomy have made this city a perfect tourist destination that has fallen in love with characters like Orson Wells, Jimi Hendrix or Cat Stevens.
Its urban planning is an exceptional example of the French architect Théordore Cornut, who redesigned the city while being a prisoner of Sultan Ben Abdallah. Its cultural miscegenation has its maximum expression in its artistic tradition.
A mixture of Muslim, Berber and African cultures that is also reflected in its crafts, especially the thuja wood carvings.
What to see in Essaouira, in Morocco
From Marrakech you will find many organized visits to Essaouira. By bus it is a journey of about three hours. Some of them make a stop to visit a women’s cooperative that manufactures argan oil.
Once arrived in Essaouira, you have to enter the medina on foot because cars are not allowed. Crossing the wall and strolling through the narrow streets of the medina is a real pleasure.
The locals are used to tourism, so they don’t chase you to buy anything. The entire medina is full of tiny and wonderful shops.
The heart of the city is Mulay el Hassan square. Nearby you will find a large number of wonderful fresh fish stalls, where you can choose the ones you want and they cook them for you right there. A real feast for very little money.
Once the food is finished, it is time to go to the Skala du Port, a walled fortress from where you can see the best views of the city. Walking along the wall you reach the fishing port of Essaouira. From there you can visit the Island of Mogador, although today only a few ruins remain.
Continuing along the ramparts you reach the Skala de la Villewhich has also been the setting for the series Game of Thrones. And at this time of day, the sun is already setting. Time to witness an impressive sunset in Essaouira, in Morocco, drinking one of its magnificent teas and an almond sweet.