Essaouira Mogador is a town at the Atlantic coast of Morocco

En langue française


Scala the Port


Bab al mersa

Bab Labhar  -The monumental gateway of Scala the Port

Bab al Mersa
("gate of the port")
(popular nickname "Bab rzeq"= gate of fortune)

This monumental door build in blocks of stone is an icon for Essaouira.
All visitors entering the town from the port can see the inscription in arabic, carved in sandstone. It´s just on the triangular pediment surmounting the the door.

Locate this sight on the Map of Essaouira Medina

(popular nickname "Bab rzeq"/gate of fortune)

Inscription in Arabic
English translation:

“This door , ordered by the glorious one of the kings, Sidi Mohammed , was built by its servetor Ahmed el Aalj”

(1184H/AD1770 )


Scala of the port

Borj el Bermil 1900

Théodore Cornut
of Avignon

He was a French mathematician and military architect captured during a failed assault on Larache , with the help of hundreds of Christian prisoners. As a the slave of the Sultan of Morocco he disgned the modern Essaouira 1776.

It is said that
........ the design of the two towers of Scala the Port are inspired by the the Tower of Belém in Lisbon.

The precence of foreign consulates in Mogador was an indication of the importance of its historic trade connections in the 19th century.


Read also:

The Consulates of the Medina


The Port

Scala the Port  with the west tower

In 1766 , Sultan Sidi Mohammad ben Abdallah (Mohammed III) engaged Théodore Cornut, a French architect, to design the new city. He worked three years on constructing the Scala of the port and the Scala of the Kasbah. The sultan then let the english architect Ahmed el Aalj fulfill the project.

The harbour entrance, with the "Porte de la Marine", was built by an English renegade by the name of Ahmed el Inglizi ("Ahmed the English"), or Ahmed El Alj ("Ahmed the Renegade"). The two "scalas" with their fortifications (the Scala of the Port and the Kasbah Scala) were built by Genoese engineers.

There are Bronze artillery guns brought from Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. Inscriptions says that the bronze to fabric the guns came from Mexico and Peru. Most of the guns were made in Sevilla and Barcelona between 1743 1782.

Barcelona Bronze

Bronze 1780



Wiith the construction of the port and the medina, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah brought a lot of slaves to Essaouira. Their songs tell about the painful march through the Sahara desert and the sufferings of slavery “Ouled Banbara”.

Read more about Gnaoua

The Port

The town's port was known as the “ Port of Timbuktu ” because most African products for export ended up there, including slaves (children of Bambara, in the gnaoua mythology).
Sultan Ben Abdellah promoted free trade policies by reducing customs and encouraging the settlement of rich merchants and Jews to handle trade with Christians.

A quarter for foreign merchants was also established. By 1780, the port was handling almost half of Morocco 's international trade. Export items included ostrich feathers, almonds, gum arabic, ivory and dried camel skins (which were imported from sub-saharan Africa through the caravan trade), while the British imported Manchester cotton and tea.

The port has been enlarged several times since then. The most important 1915 and between 1924 and 1967.


Le Mystère de la porte de la Marine (Essaouira) -
Reportage avec : * Mme.Mina MGHARI - Professeur de l'Histoire à l'université Mohamed V,
* M.Omar LAKHDAR - Ecrivain et chercheur. * M.Abdelmajid MANA - Enseignant à Montpellier



Porte Marin



The gate of the old town are inscribed with the Islamic Crescent, the Star of David and the Scallop of Santiago.

Islamic crescent

The crescent moon and star is an internationally-recognized symbol of the faith of Islam.

The early Muslim community did not really have a symbol. During the time of the Prophet Muhammad , Islamic armies and caravans flew simple solid-colored flags (generally black, green, or white) for identification purposes. In later generations, the Muslim leaders continued to use a simple black, white, or green flag with no markings, writing, or symbolism on it.
It wasn't until the Ottoman Empire that the crescent moon and star became affiliated with the Muslim world. When the Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they adopted the city's existing flag and symbol.

The Star of David -represent the Jewish community generally

In the 17th century, the Shield of David as the hexagram began to represent the Jewish community generally, when the Jewish quarter of Vienna was formally distinguished from the rest of the city by a boundary stone having the hexagram on one side and the Christian cross on the other. By the 18th century, the Shield appeared to represent the Jewish people in both secular (politics) and religious (synagogue) contexts. The Star of David can be found on the tombstones of religious Jews in Europe since the 18th century. Following Jewish emancipation after the French revolution, Jewish communities chose the Star of David to represent themselves, comparable to the cross used by most Christians.

The scallop shell

Shell of Saint James -

The scallop shell is the traditional emblem of James, son of Zebedee and is popular with pilgrims on the Way of St James to the apostle's shrine at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Medieval Christians making the pilgrimage to his shrine often wore a scallop shell symbol on their hat or clothes. The pilgrim also carried a scallop shell with him, and would present himself at churches, castles, abbeys etc., where he could expect to be given as much sustenance as he could pick up with one scoop. Probably he would be given oats, barley, and perhaps beer or wine. Thus even the poorest household could give charity without being overburdened. The association of Saint James with the scallop can most likely be traced to the legend that the apostle once rescued a knight covered in scallops. An alternative version of the legend holds that while St. James' remains were being transported to Spain from Jerusalem, the horse of a knight fell into the water, and emerged covered in the shells

Read more about symbols in Essaouira here

An eightfold shell

The rose of Mogador


Ahmed El Inglizi, the 18th century English renegade who built parts of Essaouira





Scala the Port

External links

Théodore Cornut