El Jadida – A Coastal Getaway
After getting your fill of Casablanca, if you head south, a must-stop is the ever-growing city of El Jadida. With a newly finished interstate that now connects the cape of El Jadida to the main road system between Larache and Marrakesh, tourism to this wonderfully protected and once Portuguese port town is growing exponentially.
For travelers to Morocco who are searching for a dab of modernity with wonderful beaches and historical ramparts, El Jadida, or Mazagan, as it was known when the first Portuguese conquered it in the 1500s, is a perfectly mixed paradise. In the center of town, known as Place Mohammed V, where most businesses and offices are located, head slightly north towards the post office to begin your tour of the Cité Portuguaise, which means Portuguese Fortress. The brown-colored ramparts are in amazing shape, as they were rebuilt in the 1820s so that Moroccans moving into El Jadida (which literally means, ‘The New’ city) would have a place to settle. The Portuguese then settled in El Jadida once again in the 1850s when the colonial period by the Spanish and French began.
Throughout the next few decades, Jewish settlers began taking up residence in El Jadida as it wasn’t far from the important trading and business that was taking place in Marrakesh. El Jadida became an important trading city and port, not only within Morocco, but also throughout Europe. Before European or Jewish settlers moved in, El Jadida was known as a city of tolerance. It is said that its calm beaches are attributed to its serenity. And, even today, a certain unique acceptance permeates the salt-filled air.
El Jadida still is a prosperous fishing spot for those who continue the trade. Many younger generations are turning their heads to the possibilities of tourism that still haven’t been exhausted like in other beachside towns along the Atlantic coast. And, with each new beach season, new seaside restaurants open, offering the ‘catch of the day,’ a fish tagine, or other scrumptious Moroccan dishes dashed with tastes from the sea.
In late July and throughout August, more and more Moroccans spend their vacation in this small city instead of heading to the beach resorts east of Tetouan. So, if you are planning on visiting coastal Morocco in late July or in August, you’ll find the beaches crowded with domestic tourists as well as with Moroccans coming back from Western Europe to spend their summer holidays. The best times to take advantage of the beach would be in June or September. You might just have the entire beach to yourself, with distant fishing boats on the horizon catching sardines or other delicacies of the sea.
El Jadida is a great escape from the throngs of people in Casablanca or the surrounding beaches of Rabat. So, bring along your sunscreen and enjoy one of Morocco’s most historical coastal towns.