The Resurrection of Agadir Oufella, a Lost Moroccan Landmark


Sixty years after a devastating earthquake left the national Moroccan heritage monument of Agadir Oufella in ruins, the site is now undergoing restoration as part of the 2020-2024 Agadir Urban Development Program. 

King Mohammed VI implemented the program in February 2020 as part of his vision for development in Morocco.

The program aims to carry out many projects in Agadir that will develop the city, improve the living conditions of the population, and promote the city’s attractiveness as a national and international tourist destination.

During the launch of the Agadir Urban Development Program, Morocco’s Minister of the Interior, Abdelouafi Laftit, pointed out many strong notes that the program is targeting, including the development of several structuring projects.

The Wali of the Souss-Massa region, Ahmed Hajji, said a key aspect of the program is protecting, promoting, and enhancing the city’s cultural heritage. This is where the restoration of Agadir Oufella comes into frame.

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The history of Agadir Oufella

Located along the Atlantic coast, Agadir is one of Morocco’s major cities and an important tourist destination. Right in the upper area of Agadir, you will find the Kasbah of Agadir Oufella, a town that is home to a rich history and culture.

The name “Agadir Oufella” is Tachelhit, a dialect of the Amazigh (Berber) language. Agadir translates to “Fort” and Oufella to “above,” giving it the name “the fortress at the top.” Agadir Oufella is located at the top of a mountain rising 236 meters above sea level near the port of Agadir.

Sultan Mohamed Ech-Cheikh Al-Saadi, the founder of the Saadian Dynasty, built the Kasbah in 1540 to protect the city from possible invasions, mainly from the Portuguese, who settled at the foot of the mountain in 1470 during their search for India.

The city’s previous rulers used the mountain as the site of a fort due to its strategic location.  

In 1511, the fort supported the first attack against the Portuguese by Souss tribes. 

However, two years later, the King of Portugal, Dom Manuel, purchased the fort and named it Santa Cruz de Cape de Guir, a name the Portuguese still use to describe the Kasbah today.

The tide turned in 1536 when Mohamed Ech-Cheikh Al-Saadi seized Agadir after his father, Sultan Moulay Abdellah El Kaim, declared war against the Portuguese. Four years later, after Mohamed Cheikh had become the sultan, he built the Kasbah with fortified towers and more than 40 guns to protect the city.

After two centuries, Sultan Moulay Abdellah reinforced the Kasbah in 1752. He deployed two thousand men to the fortress to increase security in Agadir. 

In 1755, the great Lisbon earthquake shook the Kasbah, damaging the infrastructure but not enough to leave it in ruins. 

However, on February 29, 1960, the Kasbah was tragically one of the casualties of the devastating Agadir earthquake. At least 12,000 people died and 25,000 were injured throughout the city Agadir. At the top of Agadir’s iconic mountain, only the walls of the Kasbah and the entry portal remain.

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Pre-archaeological study

After the 1960 earthquake, the Kasbah of Agadir Oufella was left in ruins and haunted by memories of victims that died during the natural disaster. 

In the past, visitors used to drive up to Agadir Oufella hoping to see what is left of the town. However, because of many accidents that occurred due to dangerous driving conditions, the route has been closed to cars. Currently, the only way to reach Agadir Oufella is by walking or taking a bus.

This is all set to change thanks to the restoration project. 

One of the most brilliant Moroccan architects and anthropologists, Salima Naji, is entrusted with restoring Agadir Oufella. She has worked on several complex restoration projects, including Ksar Assa, Kasbah Aghennaj El Hahi of Tiznit, and many more.

Before the archaeological phase of the site’s restoration began, experts and local officials held a study day on December 20, 2018. 

The study day, titled “History and memory of Agadir Oufella,” gathered regional authorities, officials, and experts with similar project experiences, specifically in southern Morocco.

The gathering outlined the restoration project and honored those who died in the 1960 earthquake that caused the site to crumble.

The study day’s participants also learned about the means to rehabilitate the site while taking into account its history, and how to make it an important attraction for locals and those who want to learn more about the heritage of Agadir.

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The importance of archaeology in the restoration of Agadir Oufella

Archaeology is the study of ancient history. It is the science that allows us to understand history, as well as how human behavior has changed over millions of years until the present day and why. Archaeologists work on ancient sites, recovering data and analyzing the biological, geological, and environmental aspects of these areas.

The study relies on cross-disciplinary research rooted in data gleaned from studying artifacts, architecture, biofacts, or cultural landscapes.

Before the restoration and rebuilding of Agadir Oufella can begin, the site requires a great archaeological study to learn more about the ancient people of Agadir and culture during the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods.

According to Agadir premiere Magazine, the archaeological study involves three important stages under some of the best experts in the field.

The first stage is documentation led by archaeologists, researchers, and professors Youssef Bokbot and Mabrouk Saghir. 

The second stage includes a discussion of the documentation’s discoveries and recommendations for the mediation of the site by Professor Jorge Onrubia Pintado. 

The third and final stage is the scientific mediation led by Professor Pintado along with specialist Miguel Angel Hervas Herrera, in collaboration with researchers and doctoral students.

The ongoing archaeological study will allow the restoration team to develop a better understanding of one of Morocco’s important historic sites, how natural changes occurred and why, and help them predict changes that might occur in the future. 

The goal of the archaeological study is to enable the restoration team to use the right methods to ensure the site’s successful and sustainable rehabilitation.

The restoration of Agadir Oufella Kasbah will be an important event for all Moroccans, especially Agadiris. It is an event that will restore not just the culture and heritage of the ancient site, but also rekindle the city’s recognition of this piece of its history. 

With the restoration of Agadir Oufella, the city will not only share its history with locals and visitors alike, but also properly honor and remember those who lost their lives in the tragic earthquake of 1960.

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