UNESCO City of Music

since 2019

Since the 7th century B.C., the city of Essaouira has been an important regional centre for creativity. The UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Medina of Essaouira boasts exceptional spaces for cultural expression, where music takes on its full meaning.

Essaouira is a major centre for intercultural dialogue and a symbol of tolerance, and is renowned for many cultural initiatives of both regional and international scope, serving to promote inclusion for the city’s residents and for the province. Young people are active participants in the cultural and music industry of Essaouira. Currently, there are twelve regular music festivals and eleven music event companies created by young people from the city. T

he role of music has its roots in a historical tradition of mixed identities – Jewish, Muslim, Christian and animist, which is reflected in numerous major events. Among these are the Gnaoua World Music Festival and the Atlantic Andalusia Festival. Soon to be completed is the Mohammed VI City for Arts and Culture project, designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Other creative projects, such as the Studio des Arts, and the transformation of the former municipal library and the former Danish Consulate, have also been carried out by the city, in a spirit of innovation and development.

A large part of the annual cultural budget is allocated to support the music industries through numerous grants, especially for hosting of international events. The city is also developing projects with international artists in order to provide the city’s artists with opportunities for inspiration and networking.

Added Value: 

As a Creative City of Music, Essaouira envisages:

  • inaugurating a Cultural and Creative Industries Department with the objective of developing creativity centres, strengthening creation and production at the local level and supporting young entrepreneurs;
  • digitizing the musical heritage of the city in order to increase distribution and playing of music, preserve the city’s musical heritage, and facilitate its access;
  • creating a travelling conservatory for schools in the city’s hinterlands to improve access to and participation in the cultural life for disadvantaged people;
  • creating an online radio station, coordinated by the city of Essaouira, exclusively dedicated to traditional music from around the world, particularly African music;
  • developing the artistic programme of the General Assembly of Corporate Citizens, which brings together international artists from different creative sectors each year, by showing art installations to residents, and from 2020, highlighting a different African country each year; and
  • creating an international school of traditional music and dance to boost creativity within the Network, and foster cooperation with Africa, particularly South-South cooperation.


Mr Tarik Ottmani
Vice-President, Essaouira Municipality,