The Essaouira City Guide and portal for Morocco - History


Some facts about history you find here Essaouira, once called Mogador, is thought to be named after Saint Sidi Magdol (you will find his grave at the town’s entry). Some say the name Mogador has its origins in the word “Amegdol”, meaning “well-obtained”.

Whatever its name, the site known today as Essaouira has been visited by traders for hundreds of years.

Caravans are known to have brought ivory and gold dust here from Sub-Saharan Africa since the 11th century.

Essaouira had also been, from time to time, a favored private baunt.

The Portuguese built a fort here in 1506.

The town you see today was founded in 1785; it was built according to the plans of the French engineer corunt, imprisoned during the reign of Mohammed Ben Abdullah. It is for these reasons that, in contrast to other Moroccan medinas, the main roads here run straight and at right angles.

After the closing of the harbor at Agadir, Mogador gained in importance. Many Jewish merchants settled here. The caravans from Timbuktu brought ivory and gold in exchange for leather salt and sugar.

Consequently, when the French occupied Timbuktu early in the 20th century, Essaouira lost its eminence as a center for trade.

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Essaouira today

Today, Essaouira is a healthy fishing harbor and beach resort. Although tourism has grown steadily, Essaouira retains its laidback atmosphere and local color. It remains off of most package-tour itineraries, yet it has plenty to offer the independent traveler.

Currently, Essaouira's airport is served only by domestic flights from Casablanca; however, international connections are expected soon.

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