Restoration and Education
The HAF and its partners began its restoration and cultural education program in 2012 with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish cemeteries in Essaouira. These cemeteries stand as present-day reminders of the multicultural past of both this small city as well as Morocco. Throughout the Kingdom's history, there has been vibrant cultural and linguistic exchanges between people of different faiths.
The preservation and maintenance work completed in Essaouira’s cemeteries is part of a larger cultural initiative to engage the local community, particularly its youth, with their multicultural heritage. This cultural education program, which will continue with the restoration of additional historical sites, promotes dialogue leading towards continued interfaith collaboration on future development programs.
This HAF initiative has made the Jewish, Christian, and Muslims cemeteries more inviting and accessible and has encouraged more first-time visitors. Younger generations have gained an important understanding of the multicultural history of this port city.
The results of the restoration of the three cemeteries include:
• The deciphering and cataloging the epitaphs at all three cemeteries.
• The participation of 450 young people in educational presentations and cemetery visits.
• The production of a self-guided visitor brochure is available to visitors of the cemeteries.
• The provision of a brochure is available in schools for students, detailing the cemeteries’ history and the restoration project.
• A raising of local communal awareness of the diverse, interconnected cultural heritage of cohabitation.
• The employment of caretakers who are now responsible for the cleaning, planting, and continued maintenance of the three cemeteries.
Last but not least, HAF has built a sustainable partnership with the community of Essaouira with the potential to be used as a springboard from which to engage the community in further human development projects within the surrounding area, including in interfaith agricultural projects.
HAF is currently proposing further projects for Essaouira to continue both the intercultural heritage work begun with under this project and continue its local youth cultural education program. The goal for the future of this new project is to initiate a knowledge preservation and awareness program pertaining to the buildings of the Essaouira medina, which are important to the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish faiths (including mosques, zawiyas, churches, synagogues and religious schools). From this, to develop the historical narrative of these communities. This is vital since a significant portion of this built heritage, bearing eloquent testimony to the past, has already disappeared, fallen into disuse, or is undergoing a preservation program.