Best Things to Do in El Jadida (Morocco)
Perched on Cap de Mazagan, El Jadida is a captivating port city that exudes a surprising European Renaissance ambiance. Its waterfront showcases the formidable walls of a 16th-century Portuguese fortified city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore these historic walls, then descend underground to witness a breathtaking Portuguese Manueline-style cistern. After getting yourself in the lively port activity and admiring the city from above, venture towards the nearby Atlantic beaches. Just minutes away, these pristine stretches of sand beckon, offering a tranquil escape. El Jadida seamlessly combines rich history with coastal allure, promising an unforgettable experience within its captivating embrace.
Let’s Explore The Best Things to Do in El Jadida City:
1 – Portuguese City (Cite Portugaise)
Originally known as Mazagan, this fortified city was established by the Portuguese in the early 16th century before being seized by Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah in 1769. Today, it stands as a captivating Moroccan city that seamlessly blends cultural influences. In 2004, the Portuguese city of Mazagan was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, celebrating its well-preserved Renaissance architecture, bastions, walls, and atmospheric cistern, all awaiting exploration.
One of the remarkable features of this place is the adaptation of its old watchtower into a minaret, symbolizing the harmonious coexistence of different architectural styles. Among the notable attractions is the Church of the Assumption, where remnants of its Manueline Gothic ornamentations can still be admired, providing a glimpse into its historical grandeur. El Jadida truly encapsulates the rich tapestry of Moroccan heritage, showcasing its fascinating evolution over the centuries.
2 – Portuguese Cistern
A must-see in El-Jadida is the remarkable underground water reservoir within the Portuguese city. Originally a warehouse, this space underwent a stunning transformation. With five rows of elegant Manueline pillars supporting vaulted ceilings, the reservoir measures 34 by 34 meters. A circular opening above illuminates a shallow layer of water, casting diamond patterns on the ceiling. Forgotten until its rediscovery in 1717, when a wall was accidentally demolished by a Jewish merchant, it has since become a captivating attraction. The Portuguese Cistern gained further fame when Orson Welles filmed his adaptation of Othello here in 1951. Prepare to be enthralled as you explore this hidden gem, where history, architecture, and cinematic allure blend harmoniously.
3 – Mosque of the Portuguese City
Adding to the seductive allure of El Jadida is the captivating mosque, positioned adjacent to the entrance and dating back to the city’s resettlement in the early 19th century. In a remarkable transformation, the city’s former pentagonal watchtower was converted into an extraordinary minaret under the orders of Sultan Hassan I in 1879. With its rounded edges, this distinctive structure offers a picturesque backdrop, particularly when framed against the sky and glimpsed through the arches of the citadel.
While non-Muslim visitors are unable to enter the working mosque, the presence of three churches, a Masonic hall, and a temple nearby speaks volumes about the cosmopolitan atmosphere that once thrived within the Cité Portugaise during the 19th century. This harmonious coexistence of various places of worship serves as a testament to El Jadida’s vibrant history and the cultural tapestry that shaped its identity.
4 – Plage El Haouzia
Located approximately 15 kilometers from the town of Azemmour, in the province of El Jadida, lies a beach adorned with dunes along its edge. In 2019, Plage El Haouzia proudly held the distinction of being the only beach in the region to be awarded the coveted blue flag, a testament to its supervised and well-maintained facilities, lifeguard services, and impeccable hygiene standards. However, the true allure of this destination lies in its cinematic beauty, showcased by the stunning expanse of the Atlantic coastline.
El Haouzia Beach offers a vibrant ocean teeming with activity, making it a prime spot for surfing enthusiasts. Not far from the shore, you’ll also find the remnants of a Korean container ship, its bow weathered by the relentless waves after running aground in the 1980s.
During the off-peak tourist season, visitors can partake in horseback riding in the arena, further enhancing the range of activities available for exploration and enjoyment.
Immerse yourself in the captivating ambiance of El Haouzia Beach, where the blend of natural beauty, thrilling ocean adventures, and equestrian delights awaits, providing a memorable experience along the sandy shores of the Atlantic.
5 – Sidi Bouafi Lighthouse
Perched 65 meters above sea level, the Sidi Bouafi lighthouse has stood tall since 1916, commanding the highest point of the city. Serving as a vital navigational aid for vessels navigating between Madeira, the Azores, mainland Africa, and Europe, its rotating white beam flashes three times every five seconds, visible up to 30 nautical miles. Below the lighthouse, a taxi rank awaits, providing easy access to the town of Moulay Abdellah Amghar. Although the lighthouse’s opening hours are not published, when the gates are open, visitors can climb its 248 steps for a panoramic view of the city and coastline—an unforgettable experience that showcases El Jadida’s beauty in all its splendor.
6 – Marche Central of El Jadida
Nestled between Avenue Hassan ll and Avenue Mohammed Errafi, El Jadida’s central market occupies a weathered two-story French Protectorate building. Despite its worn appearance, the market offers a captivating experience for newcomers. The net is filled with fish types, meat, fruits, vegetables, and many cool things, as well as unique items that cannot be found anywhere else only in this place. The market is alive with energetic haggling that carries on late into the night. It is one of the places in El Jadida where can buy alcohol. Adjacent to the stalls, there are small restaurants that allow you to handpick your desired fish for a delicious meal. Embrace the vibrant atmosphere of El Jadida’s central market, where culinary treasures and cultural encounters await.
7 – Deauville Plage
Stretching from the west of the port to the east of the racecourse, El Jadida’s municipal beach bears the name of the elegant resort in Normandy. Just like its namesake, the beach becomes vast when the tide recedes and is gently kissed by low waves. While swimming near the port may not be everyone’s preference, strolling along this expansive stretch of sandy shoreline is a worthwhile experience.
For added enjoyment, camel and horseback riding options are available, and a small children’s play park awaits right on the shore. A picturesque promenade gracefully curves around the bay, with most of the cafes positioned towards the western end. Take a leisurely walk, bask in the coastal ambiance, and soak in the beauty of El Jadida’s immense beach, reminiscent of the enchanting coastal resorts found in Normandy.
8 – Port of El Jadida
The fishing port adjacent to the town provides an authentic glimpse into the bustling working life of a Moroccan city. From the early hours of the morning, buyers armed with basins, plastic bags, and baskets gather to negotiate over freshly caught fish from the trawlers. In the fish marketplace, fishermen and buyers discuss the prices of sardines, and everything related to the fish.
Even if you prefer a later start, the harbor remains active throughout the day, with new trawlers and feluccas docking to supply the city’s restaurants, souks, and supermarkets.
During the high season, the port takes on a special charm as sardines and other catches are grilled over charcoal right by the water’s edge, and served alongside fresh salad and bread. On the port’s north side, the El Jadida mole offers a panoramic view encompassing the port itself, the Portuguese city, and the beach leading to the Sidi Bouafi lighthouse.
Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of the fishing port, where the vibrant trading of fresh seafood unfolds and the captivating sights and flavors of El Jadida come together in a picturesque tableau.
9 – Cups
In the vicinity of El Jadida’s douars, you’ll stumble upon peculiar dry stone structures called Tazotas. Comprising two widened cylinders made of limestone, these unique formations number at least 450. While many Tazotas are abandoned, some still serve as shelters for both people and animals. These structures date back to the early 20th century when the nomadic population was compelled to settle during the French Protectorate era. If time is limited, you can find maps online pointing out the locations of these intriguing structures. Alternatively, a short drive on the R318 road, a few miles from El Jadida, will unveil some of these fascinating Tazotas, offering a glimpse into the area’s cultural heritage.
10 – Chateau Rouge (Château Buisson)
Located along Annassr Avenue, the Château Rouge is a remarkable sight in El Jadida. Built-in the late 1920s by merchant Monsieur Buisson, this transplanted castle stands out with its romantic architectural style, featuring towers, battlements, and intricate details. Originally intended as a residence reminiscent of Monsieur Buisson’s hometown in Auvergne, the castle later gained its signature red color when a Moroccan family purchased it in the 1960s. While the Château Rouge remains privately owned, its vibrant garden bursting from the walls adds to its allure. Don’t miss the chance to capture a photo of this captivating castle, showcasing its unique charm and blending of influences in El Jadida’s landscape.
11 – Plage Sidi Bouzid
Sidi Bouzid, a delightful seaside resort about 15 minutes away from the Portuguese city, beckons with its stunning golden sandy beach. Nestled within a gently curving bay, embraced by a dune ridge adorned with lush greenery, this picturesque spot offers a mesmerizing view. One of its notable features is the westward orientation, allowing for unforgettable sunsets over the bay. However, bear in mind that the beach is exposed to the mighty Atlantic, resulting in powerful surf and invigoratingly cold waters, even during the height of summer. To cater to your needs, a variety of restaurants and cafes await at the northern end of the bay, ensuring a delightful beachside experience.
12 – Kasbah Boulaouane
Situated about an hour away from El Jadida, Boulaoune in the southeast of the province beckons travelers with its captivating kasbah. Perched atop a bend in the Oum Er-Rbia River, this architectural gem resembles a scene from a movie. Built-in the early 18th century by the Alawite dynasty, the kasbah holds great strategic significance in its commanding location. It’s outer walls and defensive towers remain remarkably intact despite being partially in ruins, forming an irregular quadrilateral plan. Adorning the main entrance is a frieze proudly displaying the completion date of the kasbah and the name of its chief architect.
Exploring the interior reveals a captivating glimpse into the past. Among the structures housed within are a mosque, a cistern, stables, storerooms, and a residential tower that still bears traces of opulent decoration. A fascinating feature is a secret passage that winds its way from the eastern wall, leading to the river and canals that were once used to supply water to livestock during times of siege. Immerse yourself in the rich history and architectural wonders of Boulaoune’s kasbah, a remarkable testament to the region’s past glory.
13 – Moulay Abdellah Amghar
Just ten kilometers from the coast lie the remains of a 12th-century town that ended its demise in the 14th century, yet still holds important historical treasures. Although heavily modified, two of the oldest minarets in Islam stand as enduring testaments within the city. These minarets now serve as the iconic landmarks for the town’s zaouia, a religious school.
A captivating spectacle unfolds in this historic setting every August during the Moussem, a grand Maghreb festival held in honor of Moulay Abdellah Amghar, the revered religious leader named after the city. Drawing a staggering crowd of up to 500,000 people, the festival encompasses a range of enchanting activities. Attendees witness a grand recital of the Qur’an, accompanied by exhilarating displays of falconry and breathtaking equestrian performances that captivate the imagination. The Moussem in this ancient city offers a remarkable fusion of cultural traditions and mesmerizing spectacles for all to enjoy.
14 – Plage Sidi Abed
Continuing your journey along the coast from Moulay Abdellah Amghar, you’ll stumble upon the tranquil oasis of Plage Sidi Abed. it is far from the noise, the best for meditation, and the beach offers a peaceful retreat just a 40-minute drive from El Jadida. As you venture onto the remote pale sands, be sure to pack everything you need for a day of sun-soaked relaxation.
While there are no private areas with umbrellas, the beach offers the convenience of tent and gazebo rentals. Set up your shaded oasis and indulge in the simple pleasures of the seaside. Immerse yourself in the refreshing shallows, craft intricate sandcastles, or take strolls along the picturesque shoreline. Plage Sidi Abed promises a blissful afternoon of serenity amidst the beauty of nature’s coastal embrace.
15 – Azemmour
Located on the banks of the Oum Er-Rbia River, just before it meets the Atlantic, Azemmour is a charming town with a rich history. Once under Portuguese rule in the 16th century, remnants of the old walls can still be seen in the medina, while the kasbah stands proudly on the ruins of the Portuguese fort, housing historic cannons. A notable landmark is the Dar El Baroud Tower, a gunpowder magazine from that era. Within the medina’s Mellah, the Jewish quarter lies a revered shrine dedicated to Rabbi Abraham Moul Niss, known for his healing abilities. Despite the Jewish community’s departure, the shrine remains a site of reverence and hosts an annual festival in August.