AskDefine | Define essaouira

Extensive Definition

Essaouira (, eṣ-ṣauīrah; formerly known as Mogador, its older name) is a city and tourist resort in western Morocco, on the Atlantic coast.


Archaeological research shows that Essaouira has been occupied since prehistoric times. The bay at Essaouira is partially sheltered by the island of Mogador, making it a peaceful harbour protected against strong marine winds.
Essaouira has long been considered as one of the best anchorages of the Moroccan coast. During the 5th century BC, she was visited by the Carthaginian navigator Hanno, who established a trading post there. 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 was used to colour 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".
Mohammed ben Abdallah encouraged the establishment of Jewish and other foreign traders. They numbered approximately one thousand by 1780. He also forced European nations to establish consulates in the city, but the city did not flourish, as she was too far from the traditional caravan trade routes.
Following Morocco's alliance with Algeria's Abd-El-Kader against France, Essaouira was bombarded and briefly occupied by the French Navy under the Prince de Joinville on August 16th, 1844.
In the early 1950s film director and actor Orson Welles stayed at the Hotel des Iles just south of the town walls during the filming of his 1952 classic version of "Othello" which contains several memorable scenes shot in the labyrynthine streets and alleyways of the medina. Legend has it that during Welles's sojourn in the town he met Winston Churchill, another guest at the Hotel des Iles. Several other film directors have utilised Essaouira's photogenic and atmospheric qualities.
Despite common misconception, Jimi Hendrix's song "Castles Made of Sand" was written two years before he visited the castles of Essaouira.
The Norwegian children's book author Thorbjørn Egner used Essaouira as both the physical and social setting for his famous book "Folk og røvere i Kardemommeby".


Essaourira 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.
Essaouria connects to El Jadida to the north via the R301 road.

Essaouira today

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.

Line notes

Photo Gallery

Marrakesh and Essaouira. Medina. "Ryad" hotel.
essaouira in Arabic: الصويرة (المغرب)
essaouira in German: Essaouira
essaouira in Spanish: Essaouira
essaouira in Persian: صویره
essaouira in French: Essaouira
essaouira in Italian: Essaouira
essaouira in Hebrew: אסואירה
essaouira in Lithuanian: Savira
essaouira in Dutch: Essaouira
essaouira in Japanese: エッサウィラ
essaouira in Norwegian: Essaouira
essaouira in Polish: As-Sawira
essaouira in Portuguese: Essaouira
essaouira in Romanian: Essaouira
essaouira in Finnish: Essaouira
essaouira in Swedish: Essaouira
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