While most visitors flock to Morocco’s coastal town of El Jadida for the sandy beaches, the historic city has plenty of interesting architecture to admire too. A former Portuguese settlement, blends of design styles can be seen around the city, with European-like structures sitting alongside traditional Moroccan buildings. Take a break from the sun, sea, and sand and discover El Jadida’s many attractive buildings.
Built by the Portuguese at the start of the 16th century, walking atop the ramparts of El Jadida’s coastal fortress is often a highlight of a trip to the town. Called Mazagan Fortress after the settlement’s former name, the walls and towers are in good condition. Rusty cannons still defensively face out to sea, and visitors can enjoy beautiful sweeping views of both the ocean and the town. Built in a star shape, the UNESCO-listed site is often considered to be one of the country’s best examples of military design.
The main Islamic place of worship in the old Portuguese City, the Portuguese City Mosque is an impressive sight. Although non-Muslims cannot go inside the mosque, they can appreciate the building from the outside. The minaret can be seen from various points around the city, and the melodic call to prayer can be heard at intervals throughout the day. Interestingly, the minaret is a converted lighthouse.
The Church of the Assumption proudly displays beautifully renovated exteriors, taking people back in time to the days of European colonization in the area. A square bell tower rises from the pale walls and a triangular pitched roof covers the arched main entrance. The church is no longer in use as a place of worship; it is used as a theatre hall today. The insides are, therefore, rather plain in comparison to the outside.
Hotel L’Iglesia is located inside a striking building with a rich history. Originally built as a Christian place of worship, the former church once also served as a US embassy. Now a luxury hotel, the exterior still looks as it would have done when devotees hurried to church services and to pray. Though the bell no longer tolls, the bell tower still rises proudly from the elegant walls. The lobby retains a church-like aura, with high ceilings, large windows, checkered floor tiles, and arched recesses. Wooden window surrounds, a chandeliers, and metal candlesticks add to the ambience.
A legacy from the days when El Jadida was home to a sizeable Jewish community, the Star of David displayed high on the outer wall, above the main entrance, is perhaps the only tell-tale sign of the building’s heritage. The sandy-coloured structure matches the colour of the citadel’s imposing walls, the curved roof embellished with decorative plasterwork.
Constructed by prisoners of war during the First World War, the pale circular tower can be seen from far and wide. The powerful light on the top still acts as a beacon and warning sign for sea-faring vessels.
The former warehouse building of the Portuguese Cisterns may not look like much from the outside, but the interior makes the old building one of the town’s main attractions. Converted into a place to store water by the Portuguese, a circular skylight lets a shaft of sunlight into the otherwise gloomy cavern. Sturdy stone pillars support the arched ceiling and reflections shimmer from the thin layer of water that sits on the floor. Atmospheric and photogenic, the old cisterns have been used as a filming location for several productions, including Othello by Orson Welles.
The Espace de la Memoire Historique de la Resistance et de la Liberation is a great museum for history enthusiasts. Themes include the relationship between Morocco and France over the years, Morocco’s fight for independence, the impacts of World Wars One and Two on the nation, and the Resistance movement. It is housed within an eye-catching old building. Splashes of yellow-beige add contrast to the white exterior walls, and a clock tower is attached to one side of the flat-roofed main building. Archways, typical in Moroccan designs, contain doors into the museum, and a long balcony, complete with eaves, pillars, and ornamental plasterwork, can be seen part way up the front of the building.
Built in the early 1900s, Theatre Afifi is a lovely example of colonial-style architure in El Jadida. The pale outer walls dazzle in the sunshine and the lovely surrounding square adds to the building’s understated grandeur. There are benches in the pedestrianised area where visitors can sit and take in their surroundings, with trees, hanging baskets of blossoms, flower beds, and statues adding to the pretty scene. Try and visit in the evening when the fountain is magically illuminated.
The main building of the luxury Mazagan Beach and Golf Resort oozes glamour and sophistication. Traditional Islamic design elements have been seamlessly interwoven with minimalistic features, creating an impressive overall visual effect. Inside, you will find opulent Moroccan designs, with decorative floors that have been polished until they shine, grand chandeliers, robust pillars, carved wood, gorgeous tile work, and Moroccan carpets. The hotel’s interiors are similar to an opulent traditional riad, with trees, fountains, and foliage within an inner courtyard.
A stunning accommodation option in El Jadida, Riad Dar El Malaika evokes images of wealthy Moroccan members of society in times gone by. The palatial building features many traditional Moroccan designs, both inside and out, with arches, pillars, geometric patterns, detailed plasterwork, spectacular tile work, high ceilings, and more. Decorative items, such as billowing window drapes, woven carpets, Moroccan lamps, traditional tea tables, and chandeliers add to the beauty. A fountain takes pride of place in the middle of a greenery-surrounded reflecting pool.
An ideal stop when travelling along the Atlantic coast from Tangier down to Agadir, via Rabat, Casablanca, and Essaouira, or an easy side trip from Marrakech or Fez, add El Jadida to your Morocco travel itinerary.