Former Mogador is probably named after the saint and Berber patron saint Sidi Magdoul (tomb at the entrance to the city). The name could also come from the word Amegdoul, “the well-protected one”. The origins of the port and trading center go back to the Carthaginian admiral Hanno (around 465 BC), who set up a base here. The Nubians King Juba II maintained purple manufacturers in the 1st century AD. The reddish dye obtained from the purple snail gave the offshore islands their name (purple islands) and was supplied to the Romans at high prices.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Portuguese under King Manuel I built a first fort on the Atlantic (1506). They baptized the city of Mogadouro. At times, the city also served as a haven for pirates.
The city did not get its current form until the middle of the 18th century. Essaouira was built in 1765 on behalf of the Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah and with the participation of the French fortress architect Théodore Cornut as a port that could compete with Agadir and Salé. Cornut was a student of Vauban, who in turn (among other things) fortified La Rochelle, Essaouira’s sister city on the Atlantic. In contrast to the other Moroccan (old) cities, the streets are dead straight.
After the closure of the port of Agadir (1765), Mogador became an important port and trading center. Jewish traders settled in the city. In the 19th century, Mogador controlled 40% of the country’s overseas trade. Caravans from Timbuktu brought gold and ivory from the south and exchanged it for leather goods, salt and sugar from Morocco. 7 Days Morocco Travel
It was only in the 20th century that its importance as a trading city declined, when the French occupation of Timbuktu interrupted trade in the Sahara and other large ports such as Casablanca and Agadir always made Thehr competition.
Tourists are primarily interested in the medina, the harbor and the long sandy beach in Essaouira. The adjoining new town has nothing special to offer visitors. The main streets of the old town are Av. Oqba Ibn Nafi (or Okba Ben Nafi) and their extensions Av. de Istiqlal and Av. Mohamed Zerktouni. The main entrance gates into the medina are the Bab Sbâa and the Bab Marrakech. At the north end of Av. Mohamed Zerktouni is the city gate Bab Doukkala.
Entering the medina through the Bab Sbâa, one walks straight onto the remarkable clock tower (L’horloge) in the city walls at Av. Oqba Ibn Nafi to. It was completed in 1928 and is still a good landmark as a landmark today. From there, you can turn right onto Avenue de l’Istiqlal, which takes you directly to the lively souks (Suq Djedid, Avenue Mohamed Zerktouni). Locals buy fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, meat and fish here, as well as clothes, fabrics, household goods and electrical appliances. The inner courtyard of the Marché aux grains (old grain market) with nice cafés for tea or a small lunch is worth seeing. Vendors sell jewellery, clothing and handicrafts in the courtyard. Directly opposite (on the other side of the market alley Suq Djedid) is the fish and spice market with all kinds of shops for spices, herbs and useful things for the hammam (olive soap, peeling gloves, clay mask rhassoul etc.) under the arcades.
If you turn left from the clock tower, you reach the main square of the medina, the Place Moulay Hassan with terrace restaurants, banks and a small green area with fish stalls grouped around it. Especially in the evening hours there is a lot of hustle and bustle with strolling locals and tourists enjoying the atmosphere before sunset with a view of the sea. Across the square one marches south to the walled fishing port flanked by fortress towers, which one enters through the Porte de la Marine. Sardine fishing starts here in June. 8 Days Morocco Travel
The hustle and bustle at the harbor (including the fish auction, usually in the morning) and the bringing in of the nets as well as the traditional boatyards, which still produce the beautiful, blue wooden boats, are worth seeing. Back at Place Moulay Hassan, take Rue de la Sqala to the Sq(k)ala de la Kasbah (access daily 9 a.m. to 8.30 p.m.). You can walk on the wide walls between the fortress towers, admire the bronze cannons made in Spain (Seville, 1743) and enjoy a wonderful view of the Atlantic cliffs and the sunset. In the arcades beneath the Sqala Wall, craftsmen sell their inlaid thuja and lemon tree wood for which Essaouria is known.
On Rue Laâlouj, which also leads to Sqala or which takes you back to Av. Oqba Ibn Nafi and the clock tower, is the small museum Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah (irregular opening times, officially daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., entry: 70 DH). This 19th-century riad hosts changing exhibitions on folk culture themes since the end of 2013, for example about the history of tea as a national drink in Morocco. In the museum you can also learn a lot about the Gnaoua (Gnawa). The musicians of West African origin are known for their ecstatic dances and rhythms. The Maâlems conjure up the spirits with their spiritual rituals. Gnaoua music is popularly believed to have the power to heal diseases and transmit “baraka”. The Al-Qacha district between Sqala and Rue d’Oujda is the center of Gnaoua musicians. If you’re
lucky, you can (be careful when taking photos, ask before!) If you want, you can also learn to play one of the traditional instruments in Essaouira.
Via the Rue Touahen or the Rue Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah you can walk from the Sqala or the Rue Laâlouj through the alleys in the north of the medina to the Mellah (old Jewish quarter). Here the city presents itself completely differently than in the tourist area around the Place Moulay Hassan: the old houses and stone arches are decaying, the rubbish is collecting in the ruins. It is better to avoid the side streets of the district at night. A new museum on Jewish history in Morocco and Jewish life in Essaouira is the Maison de la Mémoire/Bayt Al Dakyra on Rue Mehdi Ibn Toumert (Sei-Rengasse of Rue Laâlouj).
Art lovers should not miss to visit one of the galleries in the medina. The best known is the Van Damgaard Gallery on rue Oqba Ibn Nafi, where canals from the city and all over Morocco exhibit their balder and sculptures. Also, visit
Attar Kabir’s Kasbah Gallery on Rue Tétouan (see “Shopping/Galleries”) is a gallery with appealing and inexpensive pictures, including those by less well-known artists. wood sculptures, ceramics, carpets and brass.
Outside the old town, it is worth taking a look at the Complexe Commercial, which was built a few years ago in the well-kept park between Bab Sbâa and Bab Marrakech. Galleries and the Center de la Bijouterie Artisanale (silver jewelry) have settled there. 10 Days Morocco Travel
From Bab Sbâa, Bd. Mohamed V leads south as a wide avenue along the long sandy beach. On the pretty beach promenade, cafés and restaurants invite you to linger. Beach holidaymakers can rent loungers and parasols. In the “windy city” of Essaouira. Breeze an average water temperature of 18°C between November and April it is often too cold for swimming. The promenade ends in the south at the surf center and terrace restaurant Océan Vagabond. There you can watch the wind and kite surfers in the waves or ride a camel or horse across the beach or be guided.