El Jadida, Morocco

The port city of El Jadida is located on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, 90 km southwest of Casablanca and is the capital of the province of the same name. This city is primarily known for the ancient Citadel preserved here, which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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In addition, El Jadida (formerly the settlement of Mazagan) was one of the first settlements of Portuguese explorers in West Africa on their way to India. And today it is considered an outstanding example of a mixture of European and Moroccan cultures, which is colorfully reflected in the architecture of the city.

Some scenes from the films Othello (1952) directed by Orson Welles and Harem (1985) directed by Arthur Joffé were also filmed in El Jadida.

A bit of history

The first Portuguese settlers settled in El Jadida in 1502, after the city had come under Portuguese protectorate since 1486. In 1514, to protect against the Moors, the Portuguese decided to build a fortress here, which they were able to control until 1769. Then the fortress came under the control of the Moroccan Sultan Mohammed Abdullah. The city first received its current name in 1832. During the time that Morocco was under the protectorate of France, the city was called by the old name of Mazagan. And only after Morocco gained independence in 1956, the city acquired its name.

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How to get there

The nearest airports are located in Agadir, Rabat and Casablanca. You can get to El Jadida by bus from Agadir or Rabat, as well as by train from Casablanca (journey time 1 hour 30 minutes).

The beaches of El Jadida

The main beach of El Jadida stretches north and south far beyond the city limits and is a fairly wide strip of sand. During the summer season it gets crowded. A less popular beach is at the lighthouse of Sidi Kouafi, and another quiet beach, Sidi Bouzid beach, is located 2 km southwest of El Jadida.

Entertainment and attractions of El Jadida

To date, four bastions have been completely preserved on the territory of the citadel – this is the bastion of the Angel in the east, the bastion of St. Sebastian in the north, the bastion of St. Antoine in the west and the bastion of the Holy Spirit in the south. From the fifth, the bastion of the Governor, located at the main entrance, now only ruins remain.

The construction of the citadel began in 1514 according to the design of the brothers Francisco and Diogo de Arruda, who also worked on the construction of other fortifications in the Moroccan medinas. In 1541, after the loss of Agadir, they decided to strengthen the citadel with an additional ring of fortifications, the design of which was entrusted to a team of architects and engineers – the Portuguese Joao Ribeiro, the Spaniard Juan Castillo and the Italian Benedetto Ravenna. By the end of the century, in response to the demands of religious opposition, 4 churches and several chapels were built on the territory of the citadel.

Once the citadel had three gates: the Sea Gate, which formed a small port from the northeastern rampart; The Bull Gate from the side of the northwestern rampart, and the Main Gate from the side of the southern rampart, through which one could get into the fortress via a drawbridge.

During the French rule, the territory of the citadel underwent some changes – for example, the moat was covered with earth and a new entrance was laid, leading to the main street, Rua da Carreira. Along this street are some of the best-preserved historic buildings, including the 16th-century Manueline Catholic Church of the Assumption and the El Jadida Cisterns.

The cisterns were an almost square room with three halls on the north, east and south sides and four round towers. In the center of the room was another hall, partly located underground, where water entered through a system of channels leading from the citadel.

In the center of the room was another hall, partly located underground, where water entered through a system of channels leading from the citadel.

After an occupation that lasted more than two and a half centuries and according to a peace treaty with Sultan Mohammed bin Abdullah, the Portuguese were forced to leave the fortress. Before they left, they mined the main gate, the explosion of which killed many Moroccans, and the Governor’s bastion and most of the southern rampart were destroyed, and the city remained uninhabited for more than half a century. In the middle of the 19th century, Sultan Moulay Abderrahman ordered the restoration of the lost parts of the fortifications and the construction of a mosque in order to bring the “dead” city back to life.

It was then that the city got its current name El Jadida, literally meaning “New” (recall: cities in Arabic are feminine).

Now in the town square right in front of the Church of the Assumption, you can see a 19th-century mosque whose minaret was adapted to one of the four towers of the El Jadida cisterns. In addition, from the religious buildings, the chapel of St. Sebastian, located in the bastion of the same name, has been preserved.

El Jadida, Morocco