Essaouira Mogador is a town at the Atlantic coast of Morocco

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Bab el mersa

In the 18th century many visitors came to Mogador by ship and entered the medina by the great gateway Bab El Mersa of Scala the Port, which was ordered to be built in 1766 by Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah the founder of the modern city of Essaouira. But the Mogador Bay and its islands have been occupied since prehistoric times.


Morocco was in early history time inhabited by the Imazighen (known as Chleuh - an ethnic Berber group). Archeological research show that they have been fishing in The Mogador Bay, 2000 to 3000 BC.

See also: History Timeline

The Mogador Bay is almost closed by the large Island of Mogador, making it a relatively peaceful harbour protected against the strong winds of the area. The site has long been considered as one of the best anchorages of the Moroccan coast. The rich fishing waters and the access of fresh water was valuable assets. The supply of wood and stones facilitated the building of fortifications. Mogador was a perfect base for further explorations south at the African coast and west at the Atlantic.

In the 6th century BC, the Phoenicians founded a settlement at the island and they named it Migdal , Migdol ("watchtower"). They also established an production facility for indigo die (Royal blue) on the Island (Iles Purpuraires). The sea snail harvested for this production was Hexaplex trunculus also known as Murex trunculus. Murex brandaris and Purpura hemastoma was other purple shells.

Hanno the Navigator (also known as Hanno II of Carthage) was a Carthaginian explorer (500 BC), best known for his naval exploration of the African coast, visited Mogador and started iron mining at Jbel Hadid.

The Islands of Mogador (Iles Purpuraires) acquired some reputation in the Roman Empire and the King of Maurtania, Juba II, (Yuba in Imazigh) sent a contingent to "the Purple Island" to re-establish the ancient Phoenician dye manufacturing process.

Read more about the older names of Esaouira in
Origin of the name Mogador

The major influence on Moroccan culture is Islam, brought to North Africa by the Arabs. They began bringing their civilization in the 7th century and the Alaouite dynasty, which claims descent from the Prophet Mohammed, has ruled Morocco since 1649.

Mogador has a major crossroads of cultures,
connecting with the Haha Berbers and Chiadma Arabs.

The historians during the middle ages describes the site as a fortified town and a place of wintering for the navigators on the river of Amkdour (Oued Ksob).

In 1506, the king of Portugal, D. Manuel I ordered a fortress to be built in Mogador, named "Castelo Real de Mogador" but the Portuguese only stayed in Mogador for 19 years. Local people then controlled the site.During the 16th century, various powers including Spain, England, the Netherlands and France tried in vain to conquer Mogador.

The triangular trade

Ideally situated with regard to the trade winds of the North Atlantic, Mogador prospered in the triangular trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas 17th - 19th century.Goods and slaves from the sub-saharan Africa through the caravan trade passed through and Mogador had its own export of sugar and molasses from the middle ages to the 17th century. European cloth, Chinese tea was brought by the Europeans.
It is said that Essaouira remained a haven for the anchoring of pirates.

18 th century

The town revived with the Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah who let build the Scala fortifications and the port and create a prosperous environment for commerce and trade. Essaouira became a meetingplace of many cultures; the Arabs, the Jews ,the Amazigh and nearly a thousand Europeans (British, Danish, Dutch, French, Germans, Italians, Portuguese and Spanish) who had consulates in the Kasbah of the medina (the old town).

Locate this sight on the Map of Essaouira Town

Mogador was the most important trading port of Morocco until mid 19th century. During the French protectorate 1912 - 1956, Casablanca grew up in the North and Agadir in the South and there were better ports built for modern ships.


Arriving to Mogador bt the dunes

Arriving to Mogador by the dunes in early 20th century

Essaouira was known as Mogador during the French protectorate 1912 - 1956.
With the independence of Morocco, the town took the official name of Essaouira! But the name Mogador appeared for the first time in the world map of Medici in 1357 and on a map designed by Pizzigani 1367 and the Portuguese called it Mogadouro and the Spanish Mogadour - Mogador. The name Essaouira originate from when the Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah renewed the city and called it Souira (Souera) 1767.

Barakat Mohammed

On the walls of the Scala the Port towers
there are a carved inscription in sandstone.
It is Arabic calligraphy and reads
Barakat Mohammed
" blessing of Mohammed
– prophet of Islam"

Inagurated by the Sultan Sidi
Mohammed ben Abdallah
about divine protection of the town

Essaouira by satellite

The Mogador Bay is protected
by the Island of Mogador
The Island of Mogador topographic

Archeological research shows that The Island of Mogador has been occupied since prehistorical times.
A pottery, found on the island of Essaouira signed name of the Carthaginian admiral Magon, attests the presence of the Carthaginians around the city towards 630 before-JC.

Fenician ship

Asir - Fenician ship
1000 b.c.
Ship Model by Bozic Milan

Hexaplex trunculus

60,000 murex, Hexaplex trunculus,
were needed to produce
one pound of dye.

Read more about:
Tyrian Purple:
The disgusting origins of the colour purple
(BBC Culture 20180801)

Murex-Purple Dye: The Archaeology behind the Production and an Overview of Sites in the Northwest Maghreb Region
( Allanah Macdonald, University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, Denmark)

Related internal links


Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah
Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah
( Mohammed III )

Jewish merchant ship

The Sultan Sidi Ben Abdallah (1757-1790) also settled a large number of Jewish merchant families (the tujjâr al-sultân , or “sultan's traders”) in Mogador in order to take better advantage of their business connections with Jewish merchants in European cities such as Livorno, Liverpool, and Amsterdam.

The atack of Mogador by the French fleet

The attack of Mogador by the French fleetSerkis Diranian.
15–17 August 1844

The Bombardment of Mogador took place in August 1844, when French Navy forces under the Prince de Joinville attacked the Moroccan city of Mogador, modern Essaouira, and the island facing the city, Mogador island. The campaign was part of the First Franco-Moroccan War.


Roman coins excavated in Mogador

Roman coins excavated in Mogador dated late Roman Empire


Map of Nogador by Teheodore Cornut 1767

In this map of Mogador, drawn by the architect of Essaouira, Theodore Cornut in 1767,
we see the Island of Mogador, the port with Castelo Real and the drawing of the Kasbah.

Plano y perfil del Puerto de Mogodor. 1767. Map.


Planche Vue de Mogador 1891

Planche. Mogador 1891

See also
Older maps of Essaouira Mogador

MOGADOR Maroc poster


Histoire de Mogador-Essaouira

The bombardment of Mogador (Wikiwand)





External links


the Navigator

Juba II

Berber people

of Morocco

Muslim history
Islam in Mahgreb

Islam & Arabs
A Concise History

Tyrian Purple