Marrakech: An overview - Part 27

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Marrakech: An overview - Part 27

Visiting the port of Essaouira - continued

As in Marrakech, Essaouira’s medina is a labyrinth of narrow streets. It is, however, not as hard to navigate, bisected as it is by one long, straight street. This street begins at the port and runs all the way up to the north gate, the Bab Doukkala. However over the distance it changes name twice along the way.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, a Jewish community gained prominence in Essaouira, becoming the most important economic group. They have all long since left and the town’s Jewish quarter is in a dilapidated state. You can reach the mellah by following the alleys just inside the ramparts beyond Skala de la Ville. You can still identify the former Jewish residences because they are fronted by balconies. In some cases, the Hebrew inscriptions on their lintels are also visible.

At the heart of the medina is a lively market, the Souk Jdid. It is divided into four quarters by the intersection of the two main thoroughfares. There is a daily souk for fish, spice and grains and a cloistered square, known as the Joutia, where second hand items are auctioned.

Between the medina walls and the beach, a small park like square goes by the name of Place Orson Welles, in honour of the great lmmaker who came to Essaouira in 1949 to shoot his version of Othello. Since then, Essaouira and the surrounding area have been used as movie locations in many international ? lm projects. So of the most famous ones being Oliver Stone’s, Alexander the Great and Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven.

Essaouira’s beach, to the south of the medina, is one of the best in Morocco. However, the strong winds that hit this part of the Atlantic coast frequently make it a little too cold, even behind a wind break. However none of this this bothers the windsurfers who seem to be happy most of the time.

Over the last 25 years a generation of painters and sculptors have made Essaouira an important centre of artistic centre. Galerie Damgaard is where many of these artists were brought to public attention by Dane Frederic Damgaard. He used to run this influential gallery, but has now retired.

Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires is a small ethnographic museum that occupies a 19th-century house that was formerly the town hall. It contains displays of ancient crafts, weapons and jewellery. Also on display here are some of the instruments and accessories that were used by religious brotherhoods. They also have some stunning examples of Berber and Jewish costumes.

Continued in part 28

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Page added on: 27 May 2018
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