Discover Azamor, El Jadida, Oualidia and Safi

Discover Azamor -El Jadida - Oualidia and Safi

Discover Azamor, El Jadida, Oualidia and Safi

Discover Azamor -El Jadida: For four days I traveled along the Moroccan coast between El Jadida and Essaouira. Here’s my experience in the towns of Azamor, El Jadida, Oualidia and Safi.


I arrived in Azamor (or Azemmour in Arabic) ready to explore the vestiges of the strong Portuguese presence in the region. The town is located on the left bank of the Morbeia River, just ten kilometers from the old town of Mazagan – now El Jadida, and even today the old town is surrounded by Portuguese walls.

I entered the inhabited and apparently well-preserved Portuguese fortress of Azamor, built over the ancient city of Azama, as the afternoon was getting late. I strolled through the labyrinthine alleyways, the street stores just starting to open to the public (because it’s Ramadan, they’re closed for much of the day, opening only two hours before sunset, explained Mohamed Had, my local guide), until I was captivated by the smell of warm bread from a bakery where, given the limited space for handling the shovel that put the bread in the wood oven, I didn’t stay for more than a few seconds so as not to disturb the work.

As I made my way inside, Mohamed spoke on the phone to someone who, I guessed, had given the order to open a tall, brown gate right inside the fortress (in fact, I later found out that it was back next to the wall, but the many laps I had taken in the Medina had confused me), a gateway to a small privilege that was apparently closed to the public, all the more relevant given that we – and my fellow travelers – were Portuguese.

Discover Azamor,

It was an old prison, Mohamed said, and “perhaps part of the administration” of the Portuguese fort of Azamor. It was a large space, with a large courtyard featuring a sun-shaped design made of Portuguese cobblestone, the walls of the citadel and a defensive turret with cannons pointing to the current new town. Surprisingly, the disused prison was very clean and well looked after.

It was a curious moment to walk through territory where the walls have become accustomed to hearing Portuguese spoken far from home, but I’m not sure that Azamor will ever make it onto the mass tourism itinerary. What is certain is that it is at least a pleasant stop on a trip along the Moroccan coast.

In my case, it was a quick visit, as it was getting close to check-in time at the Mazagan Beach Resort, a five-star hotel which, despite having little to do with me as a traveler, turned out to be a very pleasant, comfortable hotel with excellent food.

Discover Azamor -El Jadida

Once at the hotel, the biggest surprise was not, of course, the expected comfort of a beach resort, but meeting the guests of a very high-class wedding in the common areas. I confess I was surprised to see the exuberant, very elegant – and very short – dresses of the women walking through the lobby, something I hadn’t expected to find in Morocco (the explanation was, after all, simple: the wedding was Jewish).

I still had time to step out onto the sand and enjoy the sunset of a late afternoon by the Atlantic, noting that it has little in common with Atlantic beaches in other latitudes, although the wind didn’t allow me to stay long on the sun loungers already set up at the beach bar.

El Jadida, formerly Mazagan:

Early the next morning, I headed for El Jadida – the former Portuguese city of Mazagan – with the aim of visiting the entire walled area, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
For a moment, it almost seemed as if Portugal would never leave El Jadida, even though the walled area was later “converted into Jewish quarters”, as the guide Mohamed Had explained to me. Inside the fortress of El Jadida, there are still typically Portuguese street names, a Portuguese church, an incredible cistern in the Manueline Gothic style and a well-preserved fortress left by the passage of the Portuguese until the mid-18th century.

I entered the walled city of Mazagão through a door next to the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, dedicated to the town’s former patron saint. Further on, almost opposite the police station, I came across a sign indicating the Association Cité Portugaise, an association of residents inside the fortress who are trying to help preserve the monument. Just ahead, the longed-for Portuguese Cistern, the first major goal of my wander through the streets of old Mazagan.

As is almost always the case on this trip to Morocco, I entered the Cisterna Portuguesa with no idea of what I would find (an option to be surprised) and the truth is that I was absolutely fascinated. No one would have guessed that this extraordinary space had originally been a weapons depot, and only later (around 1541) converted into a cistern to supply the medina of Mazagão with fresh drinking water.

Discover Azamor -El Jadida, Oualidia:

Before lunch, however, I went to the beach, where you could see makeshift street stalls selling oysters, Oualidia’s specialty, and lots of fishermen and their fishing boats, all painted the same dark green. I strolled along the sandy beach (did I mention that the sun was inclement?) until I came to a huddle of people, as a new boat had just reached the shore. About twenty men carried the boat on their shoulders to dry land.

Next to me, the bustle was intensifying around another boat. The auction began: 80…100… basket of fish sold for 130 Dirhams! Next basket with two dozen small fish. And another. Another boat arrived and about twenty more men. But I had to leave.

In the background, I passed a man who, indifferent to everything, was painting his boat the same dark green as all the other boats. I’m sorry now that I didn’t ask the reason for such a tasteless color – I’m sure there was something to it – but I confess that it was a nice green. It may have been the only point of monotony (beautiful, nonetheless) – on this trip along Morocco’s Atlantic coast.

Discover Azamor -El Jadida, Safi:

Further south is the pottery town of Safi, famous not only for its pottery but also for its waves, which surfers say are magnificent. It was going to be a “short visit”, apparently of little interest, but the predictions were wrong.

I entered Safi’s medina with no great expectations, but the small souk was vibrant and the streets bustling with people and commercial activity, but without tourists – exactly the kind of environment I feel comfortable in.
Safi turned out to be one of the highlights of this trip along Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The colors, the smells, the movement, the beauty of simple things. I loved it!

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