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The Southern Atlantic Coast Sights

Medina

  • Building/Architectural Site

Updated 09/08/2014

Fodor's Review

This isn't so much a sight as the very essence of Essaouira, where you are most likely to stay, eat, shop, and wander. The medina was designed by French architect Théodore Cornut in the late 18th century, on the instructions of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah, who wanted to create a new town and port to rival Agadir and demonstrate Morocco's outward focus. Cornut built the kasbah and the Sultan invited prominent Jewish traders to settle here. Mogador (as it was then known) soon thrived.

The medina is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and efforts are underway to restore some of the key buildings of Mogador's heyday, namely the Simon Attia synagogue and the Danish consulate. The former Portuguese consulate and church are also earmarked for restoration. All feature the colonnaded ground floor and rooms off internal walkways on the higher levels that are typical of the era.

From the kasbah, heading northwest, pass through the Mellah Kdim (old Mellah) before finally reaching the Mellah

proper. It was in this latter area that less affluent Jews settled. Following the end of the French Protectorate and the creation of the state of Israel, most of Mogador's Jews left and the area is now home to poorer urban families and squatters in the ruined shells of former Jewish town houses. It's best avoided after dark. As you approach the Mellah, look for the Star of David carved in stone above doorways.

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Sight Information

Address:

Essaouira, Morocco

Updated 09/08/2014

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