Essaouira Medina – A Seaside UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Medina of Essaouira was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Morocco in 2001. This extraordinary fishing village was once know as Mogador, but grew into a significant seaport in later years. It is a wonderfully preserved example of eighteenth century architecture and one of only a few fortified towns that have survived to this day. Today the Medina of Essaouira is considered to be a popular tourist resort and has remained one of the best anchorages in Morocco. This is mainly due to the fact that Mogador Island protects the harbor from high seas and strong winds.
This amazing World Heritage Site in Morocco was first named after a Muslim Saint by the name of Sidi Mogdoul. Transcribed into Portuguese, the name Mogador was established. In the 1500’s the fortress, Castelo Real de Mogador, was constructed here by the King of Portugal. Despite this, the port remained a popular harbor for pirates and for sugar molasses exports until the eighteenth century. At about that time a number of major changes were made to the Medina of Essaouira under the instruction of Mohammed III who envisioned greater things for this small harbor town. French engineer Theodore Cornut along with a small group of European technicians and respected architects were recruited by Mohammed Ben Abdullah. They were instructed to create a modern fortress and a structured city. The seaport was renamed to Essaouira, derived from the word Souira, meaning ‘Small Fortress’. Cornut was greatly influenced by the architectural designs of Vauban at Saint Malo and the seaside resort still boast a stunning European style and fine buildings. The perfectly cobbled streets, secluded alleyways and snow white structures finished off with blue painted doors, provide insight into the past and still strongly reflect the way that Mohammed III had envisioned the new look of this striking seaport.
It is recommended that visitors take a walk down to the daily fish market – even if buying fish is not on the itinerary – as it is a wonderful experience to watch the fishermen and traders. Stores along the streets sell a massive variety of beautiful handcrafted items, such as thuya wood products, embroidered clothes and carpets. Cabinet-makers and wood sculptors will fascinate guests. There are also camel rides available and it is a popular destination for wind surfers. The Medina of Essaouira is the perfect holiday destination as it is filled with history, arts and adventure.