23 May El Jadida and the Ancient Portuguese Water Cistern
El Jadida ( translation the ‘new town’) is on the South coast of Morocco. In current times it is a relaxed town that does not reflect its turbulent past. Now days the town is a base for provincial administration and has a busy sea port which is centered on sardine fishing. The summer months are busy catering for local tourism centered on its long stretches of sun drenched beaches.
El Jadida is home to the annual Salon Du Cheval international horse show held in October. A must if you are a horse enthusiast. The Barb and Arab horses are a magnificent sight to see.
The Portugese Citadel
The Portuguese citadel itself was built in 1513 and was known as the fortress of Mazagao. Furthermore the citadel’s history shows its importance as a stronghold base built along the coast to secure the Portuguese trading route. They lost the citadel in 1769 to Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah. The French gained control over the citadel in 1844 . The population was an influx of Europeans taking residence for trading and Jewish people relocating from the nearby town of Azemmour.
I derived great enjoyment in the citadel as it is fascinating place to wander. The distinctive small lanes with its attractive Jewish and Portuguese homes. The children playing amongst the crumbling ruins. The paint peeling homes are lovely with lots of wrought iron balconies looking over the cobbled lanes.
The citadel is on the list of heritage sites and with the title comes funding for restoration.
The Ancient Under Ground water Cistern
The highlight for me is the ancient underground water cistern located in the middle of the citadel.
Tales from the past
To ensure that water to the citadel would not run out its role as an armory changed to a place of water storage. The water cistern has a capacity to hold four million litres ensuring water would not be a scarcity.
The cistern measures 34 meters by 34 meters with 25 elegant carved stone pillars in 5 rows of 5 pillars. It has a central window in the ceiling producing a single shaft of light. I find it extraordinary that a shallow sheet of water covering the flagstone floors can capture in its shimmering reflection the beauty of the symmetrical construction of the ancient water cistern . It is a stunning visual reflection that captivates your attention.
Scenes in the Orson Wells epic Othello are in fact in the El Jadida ancient water cistern. Its been the back drop for a recent coffee advertisement.
A visit is to this Ancient water cistern I highly recommended. The small entry fee helps with the up keep of this extraordinary magical place.