Nestled on the coast of Atlantic coast is the port city, El Jadida. Wedged between the coast and Casablanca, the city seems very un-Moorish when looked at from the sea. It has massive Portuguese walls of hewn stone, and even has a UNESCO-protected fortified city called Mazagan, which is lauded as an early example of “realization of the Renaissance ideals integrated with Portuguese construction technology”. Currently, the city is an exporter of beans, almonds, maize, chickpeas, wool, hides, wax, and eggs.
El Jadida heaves as a holiday resort for many Moroccan families that flock to the city during the summer months of July and August. Its proximity to Casablanca is another reason why the city is popular among the tourists.
In contrast to many other cities in Morocco, El Jadida has more than cultural heritage and food junctions. The five-star resort of Mazagan sees many elites and international visitors from around the kingdom, Europe, and beyond. The reason is its golf course which was designed by Gary Player. The resort also has casino, spa, nightclubs, and restaurants to spend and enjoy the night,
Wedged between Mazagan and El Jadida is yet another golf course named as Royal Golf El Jadida, which is grand and has 18 holes.
Main Landmarks in El Jadida
Given vast history and European influence, El Jadida is home to several beautiful, archaic monuments. These buildings have interesting stories behind their making and gorgeous architecture.
Also known as Portuguese Fortified City of Mazagan, it is a major historic and cultural site in the city of El Jadida. Significant for its European influence and architecture, the city was registered as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in the year 2004. It is one of the early settlements constructed by Portuguese in West Africa and an exemplary Renaissance military construction.
Inside the Cité are ochre-colored Mazagan fortress with star-shaped ramparts protecting labyrinthine streets, old synagogue, and a notable building referred to as Church of the Assumption, which is now converted into a luxurious hotel. There is another site that is most renowned of the Cité and El Jadida – the Portuguese Cistern.
The fortress is hailed as one of the finest remaining examples of Renaissance military design. It is constructed in the shape of a star with slightly inclined walls that stand 8 meters high (excellent vantage point) and 10 meters thick with a 2-meter wide patrolling peripheral for the soldiers. Old cannons from the colonial era can be seen on the ramparts, still facing the sea. Visitors can walk on these old protecting walls of the fortress and savor the spectacular view of the port and the sea.
The fortress had 5 bastions from which 4 remain while the 5th bastion (the Governor’s) at the main entrance is in ruins. It was destroyed in 1769 by Portuguese.
Located within the fortress is this old synagogue that is memoire of the town’s Jewish heritage. Visitors will observe the Star of David displayed high above the main door of the synagogue.
Church of the Assumption
It one of the most significant surviving buildings of the fortress. Built in the early 16th century, the Church showcases captivating Manueline architecture, which is Portuguese late Gothic style of construction.
Once a warehouse, the cistern expanded since 1514 and was converted into a cistern in the 16th century. It became a popular tourist site after it featured in Orson Welles’ Othello. The atmospheric underground chamber is a huge 34 meters by 34 meters with five rows and five strong pillars.
The structure is famous for its thin layer of water that covers the floor. The spilled water reflects light to create an ever-changing play of shadows. Its Spartan-shaped columns and rows gives the cistern a fascinating look that again attracts a lot of visitors.
Located next to the cistern is a museum named after the old architecture. This museum has a wide collection of old photos, books, and historical documents that offer a clear glimpse into the past of El Jadida.
Espace de la Memoire Historique de la Resistance et de la Liberation
This museum is truly for the most enthusiastic history lover since it will take you back in the time of World Wars. The place offers details of effects of the wars on Morocco and information about the Renaissance. The museum also provides a detailed account of relationship between the kingdom and France from during and after the colonial era. Its exhibition includes photographs, weapons, documents, and artefacts.
Portuguese City Mosque
This imposing mosque is easy to recognize because of its high and unique minaret, which was originally an old lighthouse. If you visit the site at night, you will observe the light still tops the towering minaret. Though closed for non-Muslims, this gorgeous archaic structure is worth a visit, even from the outside.
Sidi Bou Afi Lighthouse
A whitewashed lighthouse, though closed for public, is definitely worth a closer look. While the structure may not be very fascinating, the story behind its construction does incite some curiosity.
The building was built using prison labor during World War II. German prisoners were responsible for its construction.
If the custodian is around, you might as well convince him for a little sneak peak inside the lighthouse.
The port city has numerous beaches where you can spend the evening sauntering and taking a walk.
El Jadida Beach aka Deauville Plage – This beach is nearest to the main city and most famous among Moroccans who come here for a splash in hot season.
Haouzia Beach – This one is lesser crowded and a more private alternative to El Jadida Beach. Visitors can enjoy scenic views, one of which includes a semi-submerged wreck just off the coast.
Sidi Abed Beach – This one is a rather isolated option for those seeking peace and scenic views.
Sidi Bouzid Beach – This one is for the surf enthusiasts and sun-bathers.
El Jadida is a whole new experience for tourists. It fills you with Morocco’s vast history, European influences, and effects of World Wars.