; Berber languages: ⵚⵡⵉⵔⴰ
), formerly known as Mogador
, is a city in the western Moroccan economic region of Marrakesh-Safi, on the Atlantic coast.
Name and etymology
The name of the city is usually spelled Essaouira
in Latin script, and الصويرة in Arabic script. Both spellings represent its name in Moroccan Arabic, ṣ-Ṣwiṛa
. This is the diminutive
(with definite article) of the noun ṣuṛ
which means “wall (as round a yard, city), rampart”.
The pronunciation with pharyngealized /ṣ/ and /ṛ/ is a typically Moroccan development. In Classical Arabic, the noun is sūr
(with plain /s/ and /r/), diminutive suwayrah
Hence, the spelling of the name in Arabic script according to the classical pronunciation is السويرة al-Suwayrah
).In the Berber language, which is spoken by a sizeable proportion of the city’s inhabitants, it is called “Taṣṣort
“, meaning ‘the small fortress’.In Moroccan Arabic, a single male inhabitant is called ṣwiṛi
, plural ṣwiṛiyin
, a single female inhabitant is ṣwiṛiya
, plural ṣwiṛiyat
. In the Berber language, a single male inhabitant is U-Taṣṣort
, plural: Ayt Taṣṣuṛt
, a single female inhabitant is Ult Taṣṣort
, plural ‘Ist Taṣṣort.
Until the 1960s, Essaouira was generally known by its Portuguese name, Mogador
. This name is probably a corruption of the older Berber name Amaqdūl
, which is mentioned by the 11th-century geographer al-Bakrī.
Archaeological research shows that Essaouira has been occupied since prehistoric times. The bay at Essaouira is partially sheltered by the island of Mogador, making it a peaceful harbor protected against strong marine winds.