From an overlook, we got a nice view of the port city of Essaouira.  The island of Mogador protects the harbor from strong marine winds.  Essaouira has a rich history dating back to the Phoenicians. The Romans built a purple dye factory on the island.  The Portuguese established a commercial port here and added military ramparts to protect the city.  Abid Al Boukhari took it back from the Portuguese and had the city designed like a European fortress.  Morocco was a French Protectorate.  They developed Casablanca and Agadir thus reducing the importance of Essaouira as an international port.  It gradually then became a fishing port.

The city was called Mogador until Morocco gained independence in 1956 and it was renamed Essaouira.
We met Abdul, our guide, for the 4 hour walking tour of Essaouira just outside Bab Sbaa, one of three gates to the Medina of Essaouira.  Here are the primary areas we covered during the tour:

  • Sqala du Port
  • Ramparts
  • Thuya woodworking
  • Lunch at Casa Mounia

Sqala du Port

Porte de la marine

The gate to the city from the port is the Porte de la Marine.  The inscription in arabic on the triangular pediment reads "PRAISE TO ALLAH, This door, ordered by the glorious one of the kings, Sidi Mohammed, was built by it's servitor Ahmed el Aalj".  The symbols just below the pediment are the Islamic Crescent, The Star of David and the Scallop of Santiago, indicating people from all religions are welcome in Essaouira.

The port at one time handled 40% of all Atlantic traffic, including slave traffic.  Today there is only a small fishing business from here.  There is still some ship building, however.  Here are some photos from the port:


The ramparts were built to ward off any naval attacks.  Today, they make a nice place to take  stroll at sunset or used as the set for movies.  Orson Welles filmed "Othello" here from 1949 to 1951. He is honored with a square named after him. More recently the area was used for several episodes of "Game of Thrones"
The bronze cannons were made in Spain of copper from Mexico and Peru.  They were cast in the late 1700's.  There are 19 bronze cannons of three different nationalities, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch.

Thuya Woodworking

Essaouira is known for it's Thuya woodworkers.  The craftsmanship is passed down through the generations.  The Thuya tree is native to the Essaouira area of Morocco.   The wood is prized for it's beauty and aroma. It polishes to a nice shine. Here are some images from our tour of a Thuya workshop, which was located beneath the ramparts.

Raw Thuya Wood ------>

Coaster set made from Thuya

Product Showroom

Polishing thuya to make an end table

Table Top (the sections can be moved to alter the shape of the table top)

Another view of product showroom

Casa Mounia

The service was on the slow side at Casa Mounia, but the Sea Bass meal was excellent.