Essaouira (formerly Mogador) in its current format, was one of the world’s first intentional towns.
This swamp / archipelego / port already had a long history – from occupation in Paleolithic times through to when its Purpurae islands provided the purple dye that coloured Senators’ robes in the Roman Empire (an industry set up in the 1st century BC by King Juba II of Mauritania) .
It also has a centuries’ long habit of cohabiting – Jews with Muslims, Christians with Berbers, artists with craftspeople, fisherman with merchants. The trade winds that bluster through the old medina from April to October have always brought a whirl of cultural and educational references.
In 1764, the Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah decided to take advantage of the strategic position of the fort & port (built the century before by the Portuguese and of interest to French and Spanish) and combine the Saharan trade with the external world in one place. Using French architect Cornut he designed the medina much as it is today, combining French city planning with Arabic tradition. The labour was carried out by local tribal peoples and French prisonerss.
The canny Sultan then populated the town with highly skilled craftspeople from Marrakech plus others from Europe. He deliberately combined Muslims, Berbers, Jews and Christians to create a diverse community vital to a flourishing hub of innovation and skilled workmanship.