Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador) (2001)

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Essaouira is an exceptional example of a late-18th-century fortified town, built according to the principles of contemporary European military architecture in a North African context. Since its foundation, it has been a major international trading seaport, linking Morocco and its Saharan hinterland with Europe and the rest of the world. 

Essaouira is formerly known as Mogador, located 170 km (106 mi) west of Marrakech. The high Atlas Mountains protect the coastal zone around Essaouira from the extreme heat of the Sahara. Essaouira lies on a low sandstone promontory, and the surrounding area is mostly dunes and scrub. 

The sheltered harbor can accommodate only small fishing craft; barges from vessels at anchor generally transship cargo to shore. Essaouira is an important port for sardine fishing. 

  • French Morocco 1953. Mogador. 

French Morocco 1953. Mogador.

Essaouira was founded in 1760 by Sultan Sidi Muhammad ibn-Abdullah. The city was laid out in a rectilinear pattern by French engineer Cornut, and the design of the original city was completed about 1770. In 1844 the fortress was bombarded by a French naval force under the direction of Prince de Joinville, son of King Louis Philippe. 

French Morocco 1928. Moorish Tribesmen at a "Fantasia", an annual social gathering with horse show and shooting contests.

In 1873 Essaouira was besieged by tribesmen and in 1906 briefly occupied by the Berber leader Anflus. French occupation began in 1907. Essaouira prospered for a time, but declined when the city of Agadir was opened to foreign trade in the 20th century. In November 1942 United States troops landed at Essaouira during the Allied invasion of North Africa. 
  • French Morocco 1928. Moorish Tribesmen at a "Fantasia", an annual social gathering with horse show and shooting contests. 

In its justification for inscription the UNESCO states that Essaouira is an outstanding and well preserved example of a late 18th century European fortified seaport town translated to a North African context. With the opening up of Morocco to the rest of the world in the later 17th century Essaouira was laid out by a French architect who had been profoundly influenced by the work of Vauban at Saint-Malo. It has retained its European appearance to a substantial extent.

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Morocco (on this web site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Morocco section, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 20 jul 2006  
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