Art Deco surprises in Mogador

Hotel Beau Rivage in Essaouira
Hotel Beau Rivage

Our short Morocco trip took us to Essaouira, a sea side resort that is famous for its constant climate all around the year. Before air travel, it was the cooling station for Marrakesh and Casablanca, just like Qingdao or Yantai were for Shanghai. Essaouira has a small and pretty Medina with narrow streets to protect from the wind (now protected as UNESCO heritage) and a few Art Deco buildings. The medina is surrounded by a city wall, originally designed by a disciple of 18th century French architect Vauban.

Cafe de France Art Deco interior

The current main square overlooking the sea was clearly made by taking down parts of the Medina wall to clear space in the early 1920s, when the city was called Mogador. Near the square stands Beau Rivage hotel, with is modernist style and its ground floor Café de France that has kept is Moorish Art Deco interior.

Art Deco villa on the Essaouira beach front

The other spot of Art Deco buildings are villas along the beach, South from the old town. This area feels quite similar to places Miami Beach, Long Beach California or Bondi Beach in Sydney. The beach side is now a mix of modern hotels and apartment blocks with a few Art Deco beach villas remaining.

Art Deco beach house
The veterinarian’s house

I managed to talk with an old man enjoying the sunset on the balcony of one of the them. “This house was built for the director of the regional veterinary administration, in 1948, under the French protectorate” he said. For the French civil servants, posting in Mogador must have been quite a remote location, but having a nice villa on the beach to watch the sunset was a pretty nice compensation.

Another villa on the beach

The really interesting part is that I had always thought that French Art Deco stopped with WW2. It seems that in Morocco, Art Deco continued well in the late 1940’s and maybe further, just like it continued in Asia (See post Frankenstein Art Deco). Casablanca architecture was also influenced by California in the 1940s, so the trend of Art Deco beach villas came all the way to Mogador, just like it came all the way to Qingdao, Yantai and other sea side resorts in China.

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