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Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador)

Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador)

Essaouira is an exceptional example of a late-18th-century fortified town, built according to the principles of contemporary European military architecture in a North African context. Since its foundation, it has been a major international trading seaport, linking Morocco and its Saharan hinterland with Europe and the rest of the world.

Médina d’Essaouira (ancienne Mogador)

Essaouira est un exemple exceptionnel de ville fortifiée de la fin du XVIIIe siècle, construite en Afrique du Nord selon les principes de l'architecture militaire européenne de l'époque. Depuis sa fondation, elle est restée un port de commerce international de premier plan reliant le Maroc et l'arrière-pays saharien à l'Europe et au reste du monde.

مدينة الصويرة (قديمًا موغادور)

تُعتبر الصويرة المثال الفريد للمدينة المحصنة التي تعود الى نهاية القرن الثامن عشر. وقد بُنيت في أفريقيا الشمالية وفقًا لمبادئ الهندسة المعمارية العسكرية الاوروبية التي كانت سائدةً في ذلك العصر. فمنذ تأسيسها بقيت مرفأً تجاريًّا عالميًّا من الباب الأول، اذ تربط المغرب وداخل البلاد الصحراوية بأوروبا وباقي العالم.

source: UNESCO/ERI

索维拉城(原摩加多尔)

索维拉城是一个典型的18世纪晚期发展起来的北非防御港口城市,城市以同时期欧洲防御城堡为蓝本,加上北非地方特点建造而成。自从城市建成开始,索维拉城就成为重要的国际贸易海港,连接着摩洛哥以及撒哈拉内陆地区与欧洲和世界其他国家的贸易往来。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Медина (старая часть) города Эс-Сувейра (бывший Могадор)

Эс-Сувейра – это выдающийся пример крепостного города конца XVIII в., построенного в соответствии с принципами европейского фортификационного искусства того времени и с учетом особенностей условий Северной Африки. Со времени своего основания этот город был важным международным торговым портом, связывающим Марокко и его расположенные в пустыне Сахара внутренние районы с Европой и всем остальным миром.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Medina de Esauira (Antigua Mogador)

Esauira es un ejemplo excepcional de plaza fuerte construida en África del Norte con arreglo a los principios de la arquitectura militar europea de finales del siglo XVIII. Desde su fundación, la ciudad ha sido un puerto de primera importancia para el comercio de Marruecos y sus territorios saharianos con Europa y el resto del mundo.

source: UNESCO/ERI

エッサウィラのメディナ(旧名モガドール)

source: NFUAJ

Medina van Essaouira (voorheen Mogador)

De medina van Essaouira – voorheen Mogador geheten, wat ‘klein fort’ betekent – is een uitstekend voorbeeld van een laat 18e-eeuwse versterkte stad, omgeven door een muur. De stad is gebouwd volgens de principes van de hedendaagse Europese militaire architectuur in een Noord-Afrikaanse context. Essaouira is sinds haar stichting een grote zeehaven geweest voor internationale handel tussen Marokko en sub-Sahara Afrika, en Europa en de rest van de wereld. De stad is een voorbeeld van een multicultureel centrum, waar diverse etnische groepen zoals Imazighen, Arabieren, Afrikanen en Europeanen en religieuze groeperingen – moslims, christenen en Joden – vanaf het begin in harmonie samenleven.

Source: unesco.nl

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Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador) © Unesco
Outstanding Universal Value
Brief synthesis

The Medina of Essaouira, formerly named Mogador (name originating from the Phoenician word Migdol meaning a « small fortress »), is an outstanding example of a fortified town of the mid-eighteenth century, surrounded by a wall influenced by the Vauban model. Constructed according to the principles of contemporary European military architecture, in a North African context, in perfect harmony with the precepts of Arabo-Muslim architecture and town-planning, it has played a major role over the centuries as an international trading seaport, linking Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa with Europe and the rest of the world. The town is also an example of a multicultural centre as proven by the coexistence, since its foundation, of diverse ethnic groups, such as the Amazighs, Arabs, Africans, and Europeans as well as multiconfessional (Muslim, Christian and Jewish). Indissociable from the Medina, the Mogador archipelago comprises a large number of cultural and natural sites of Outstanding Universal Value. Its relatively late foundation in comparison to other medinas of North Africa was the work of the Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah (1757-1790) who wished to make this small Atlantic town a royal port and chief Moroccan commercial centre open to the outside world. Known for a long time as the Port of Timbuktu, Essaouira became one of the major Atlantic commercial centres between Africa and Europe at the end of the 18th century and during the 19th century.

Criterion (ii): Essaouira is an outstanding and well preserved example of a mid-18th century fortified seaport town, with a strong European influence translated to a North African context.

Criterion (iv): With the opening of Morocco to the rest of the world at the end of the 17th century, the Medina of Essaouira was laid out by a French architect who had been profoundly influenced by the work of the military engineer Vauban at Saint Malo.  For the most part, it has retained its appearance of a European town.

Integrity (2009)

Already completed by the 19th century and clearly defined by its ramparts, the Medina of Essaouira possesses all the essential components for its integrity.  Comprising a harmonious ensemble associated with natural elements (Mogador Archipelago) and high quality cultural elements, the town today retains its integrity and its original distinctive style. Despite its integrity being slightly altered, notably due to degradation of buildings in the Mellah district, the degree of loss does not compromise the significance of the property as a whole.

The state of conservation of the Medina of Essaouira is increasingly improved due to the efforts of the local authorities and the vigilance of the authorities directly concerned with its protection and presentation.

Authenticity (2009)

Founded in the middle of the 18th century, the Medina of Essaouira has for the most part conserved its authenticity as regards the conception and outline as well as the materials (use of local stone called manjour) and construction methods, and this in spite of some inadequate use of modern materials for repair and reconstruction work. Notwithstanding the sea swell and dampness elsewhere, the fortifications and urban fabric conserve, on the whole, their original configuration. 

Protection and management requirements (2009)

Protection measures essentially relate to the different laws for listing of historic monuments and sites, and particularly the Law 22-80 concerning the Moroccan heritage. Ownership of the elements that make up the historic town of Essaouira is divided between the State, the municipality, the Habous, the Israelite Alliance, cooperatives and private individuals. The 1988 urban plan No. 4001 provides for a buffer zone around the historic town within which construction is prohibited. Two significant protection and management measures are currently in the final stages of application.  These are the Master Plan for Urban Development of the town of Essaouira and the Safeguarding Plan for the Medina.

The local population, the public authorities and the associative areas are increasingly aware of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Medina. The Essaouira Urban Agency was created to ensure a better control of town development in general and the medina in particular. In parallel with other ministerial departments and services, this Agency should, plan and coordinate efforts and monitor the execution and implementation of the ongoing or planned work sites.  Contingent upon the establishment of a management plan for the medina that should both safeguard the architectural heritage and improve the living conditions of the local population, the authorities concerned for the protection and safeguard of the property must supervise the application of the development plan for the medina and the entire town of Essaouira

Long Description

Essaouira is an outstanding and well-preserved example of a late 18th-century European fortified seaport town translated to a North African context. With the opening up of Morocco to the rest of the world in the later 17th century, the town was laid out by a French architect who had been profoundly influenced by the work of Vauban at Saint-Malo. It has retained its European appearance to a substantial extent.

Since its foundation in the 18th century and until the beginning of the 20th century, Essaouira has played a fundamental role as an international trading port between Morocco and the rest of the world. A number of consulates and traders from different countries were established there. Essaouira is a leading example of building inspired by European architecture, a town unique by virtue of its design: it was created in conformity with a predetermined plan, the Cornut plan. Since the beginning, the medina of Essaouira has been a major place for the peaceable coming together of the architectural and town-planning models of Europe and of Morocco itself. In this way a symbiosis was achieved between building techniques from Morocco and elsewhere that gave birth to some unique architectural masterpieces: the Sqalas of the port and of the medina, the Bab Marrakesh bastion, the water gate, mosques, synagogues, churches, etc.

Archaeological excavations have shown that the site of Essaouira was originally a Phoenician trading settlement, followed by Cretans, Greeks and Romans. The earlier name of Mogador derives from Migdol, meaning a small fort. In 1506 it was to become the site of a Portuguese fortress, but this was abandoned soon after.

The present town dates from 1765, when the Alawite Sultan Sidi Mohamed ben Abdellah decided to build a port that would open Morocco up to the outside world and assist in developing commercial relations with Europe. He sought the help of Nicholas Théodore Cornut, a surveyor specialist in military fortifications from Avignon, who was strongly influenced by Vauban's defences at Saint-Malo. He partially dismantled the Portuguese fortress to build an esplanade with a row of cannons. The entire town was enclosed by a defensive wall on the Vauban model. In order to control maritime trade, he closed the southern coast to European traders, obliging the European consuls at Safi, Agadir and Rabat to move to Mogador, where all southern mercantile activities were concentrated. The new port became one of the country's main commercial centres; it was called the 'port of Timbuktu' as it was the destination of caravans bringing a variety of products (including slaves) from black Africa. The town was made up of three separate districts. The kasbah comprised the old administrative district. The medina was crossed by two main axial streets, one running from Bab Doukalla to the harbour and the other from Bab Marrakesh to the sea. At their intersection there were four markets, for fish, spices, grain and general goods respectively.

The Mellah is the Jewish quarter; it played a very important role in the history of the town, as the sultan made use of this community to establish relations with Europe and to organize commercial activities with them. The main features of the town are: the ramparts, most of the northern section of which survives; the town gates, especially the ornamental Sea Gate (1170-71); the bastions and forts (borjs ), especially the Sqala of the Port and the Sqala of the Medina and the Bastion of Bab Marrakesh; the kasbah , which was originally the seat of power and the military garrison, and is now integrated into the town proper; the Mellah (Jewish quarter), which retains many of its original special features; the prison, located on the offshore island (now a refuge for rare birds, such as hawks); the many mosques, in a characteristic style, and especially the mosques of the Casbah and Ben Yossef; the synagogues (in particular the 19th-century synagogue of Simon Attias), which preserve the dynamism of the Jewish inhabitants; the late 18th-century Portuguese church; the Dar-Sultan (old Royal Palace); and the very attractive private houses.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

Archaeological excavations have shown that the site of Essaouira was originally a Phoenician trading settlement; they were followed by Cretans, Greeks, and Romans. The earlier name of Mogador derives from Migdol, meaning a small fort. In 1506 it was to become the site of a Portuguese fortress, but this was abandoned soon after.

The present town dates from 1765, when the Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohamed ben Abdellah decided to build a port that would open Morocco up to the outside world and assist in developing commercial relations with Europe. He sought the help of Nicholas Théodore Cornut, a surveyor specialist in military fortifications from Avignon, who was strongly influenced by Vauban's defences at Saint-Malo. He partially dismantled the Portuguese fortress to build an esplanade with a row of cannons, known as the Sqala. He laid out a checkerboard plan for the town with forts of Roussillon type, in the European tradition. The entire town was enclosed by a defensive wall on the Vauban model.

During the reign of this Sultan, Mogador assumed a major commercial and fiscal role. In order to control maritime trade, he closed the southern coast to European traders, obliging the European consuls at Safi, Agadir, and Rabat to move to Mogador, where all southern mercantile activities were concentrated. The new port became one of the country's main commercial centres; it was called "the port of Timbuktu," since it was the destination of caravans bringing a variety of products (including slaves) from black Africa.

The town was made up of three separate districts. The Kasbah comprised the old administrative district. The Medina was built between the 18th century and the early 20th century. It was crossed by two main axial streets, one running from Bab Doukalla to the harbour and the other from Bab Marrakech to the sea. At their intersection, known as Souk Jdid, there were four markets, for fish, spices, grain, and general goods respectively. Each of the districts bears the name of one of the tribes that were involved in the building of the town.

The Mellah is the Jewish quarter; it played a very important role in the history of the town, since the Sultan made use of this community to establish relations with Europe and to organize commercial activities with them. They were given the title of Toujjar Es-Sultan (Royal Merchants), giving them considerable economic and political privileges.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation