Essaouira (Arabic: الصويرة; Berber languages: ⵚⵡⵉⵔⴰ), formerly known as Mogador, is a city in the western Moroccan economic region of Marrakesh-Safi, on the Atlantic coast.
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 (with sīnnot ṣād).
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.