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In 1760, Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah founded Essaouira, entrusting the design of the city to the military architect Théodore Cornut. Cornut crafted a modern European-style city, featuring a spacious central avenue lined with arcades and cross streets, all enclosed within a formidable wall. The city earned its name, which means “designed labien,” due to its perfectly regular plan. Following its construction, Essaouira continued to expand and experience remarkable growth, ultimately becoming the country’s most important commercial port and diplomatic capital between the late 17th and early 19th centuries.

However, with the onset of the French protectorate and the rise of other ports, Essaouira found itself on the periphery of maritime routes in the early 20th century. Nevertheless, the city has since made significant strides in tourism and cultural and musical significance, becoming a hub of development over the past five decades. Essaouira, formerly known as “Mogador” by the Portuguese, is also referred to as “The bride of the Atlantic,” as its whitewashed houses with blue shutters appear to embrace the waves of the ocean atop a rocky promontory.

Essaouira’s medina, its historic center, has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. Visitors can explore the souk’s alleys and craft shops, which offer a vast array of products, ranging from silver jewelry, fabrics, carpets, and spices to ointments, perfumes, and ornate wooden carvings. The city is also known as the birthplace of Gnaoua music, a genre originating from black slaves brought to the city in the 18th century, where Essaouira served as the port for slaves bound for the Portuguese colonies. The International Festival of Gnaoua Music and World Music is held annually in Essaouira, typically in mid-June.

Essaouira offers several unique attractions, including women’s cooperatives that specialize in producing Argan oil, a walk along the old ramparts at the top of the Skala de la Ville, and workshops featuring lumberjacks and marketers working with Thuya wood. Visitors can enjoy fresh fish that they can personally select and grill instantly at the port and maritime area with traditional wooden fishing boats. The city’s primary beach, stretching several kilometers south of the medina, is a must-visit destination, as is the mellah, the former Jewish quarter, and the souk, with its Spice Market and Jewelers Souk.

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