Essaouira, the wind city

Author & Photographer : Alessandro Del Ben

I was born in the silence between the sea and the olive groves

the mystery of a wandering star protecting me from myself

I was born in the silence between the sea and olive groves

bathed with the rhythm of the waves and the dawn of light.   Amina Said

 

Describing a wide bow the ocean winds runs on the long south ovest beach, meantime at north they powerful crashes into the cliff raising high sea foam.

Between this natural power there is Essaouira, the wind city.

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The legend of Essaouira has been narrated, sung and filmed by many artists. Some people even think that it might be the famous Cernè Island described in ancient history. In 6th century BC its first inhabitants were Berbers who named the city Amagdul meaning “the well kept”.Subsequently it became an important trading port for the Greeks, Phoenicians and Carthaginians in the Ist century BC. The Romans arrived, renaming it Tamusiga, and created a thirving business with the Tyrian purple dye exctracted from murex shells found around the island. The name of the “Iles Purpuriares” dates from this time.

A gateway between Africa and the Occident, the town was an important trading centre and became known as “Port of Timbuktu”.The Portoguese built the Castello Real in 1506 during their brief stay, after which the name was changed to Mogdura, payng homage to a local Saint called Sidi Magdul.

In 1628 it was still a relatively small town, but grew larger and more important with the efforts of Jewish traders, “Les negociants du roi” brought to the city by the visionary Sultan Mohamed Ben Abdullah. The sultan renamed the town again, this time to Souira “the small fortress”. He summoned the french architect Theodore Cornut to build a commercial harbour in 1765. The French renamed the city Mogador at the beginning of the 20th century during the protectorate. After they left in the 1950s the town regained its Arabic name of Souira but with a grammatical modification, giving us Essaouira “the well drawn”.DSC_0207

 

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The seagulls are the Kings of the wind and the sea.

DSC_0180Cormorants on the cliff

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The Berbere handicraft, jewellery and talisman, the silver of Morocco.

DSC_0165Berber daggers with silver facing

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DSC_0159Berbere carpet

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DSC_0229Traditional painting from Essaouira

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The architecture of  Medina of Essaouira

Despite its reputation as a model of geometrical planning, the medina of Essaouira is nevertheless a maze of narrow lanes and impasses once one has left the main grid of wide roads dividind the town into quarters. Like other ancient town in the Maghreb, much of Essaouira is a labyrinth of passages with light and shade playing between the arcades sabbas of the souks and colonnades round the atriums in the houses.

Sabbas are medieval type covered passages, archaic and charming for visitors, but still pratical today where space is in short supply in a town enclosed within ramparts.

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DSC_0099The shrill voice of the mullah enter through the window of my room in the riad. In the cities of maroc there are many mosques and during the day the prayer voice widespread all around many time.

 

 

 

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Author & Photographer : Alessandro Del Ben

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