The High Atlas Foundation was honoured by the visit of US Consul General, Mr. Brian Shukan to Muslim, Jewish and Christian cemeteries in Essaouira, which are the sites of its cultural heritage project there. At the cemeteries, Mr Shukan was welcomed and accompanied by Mr André Azoulay, Adviser to His Majesty King Mohammed VI and His Majesty’s Governor for the Province of Essaouira, Mr. Abdelouahab El Jabri, as well as other local representatives including the Pacha, Mr. Mustafa Lakhdar and the local Caïd, Mr. El Mustafa Akroum.
The visit began with Mr Shukan’s delegation paying their respects at the Muslim cemetery “Chouhada” at Bab Marrakech before passing to the new Jewish and Christian cemeteries at Bab Doukkala. The visit took place during the 16th edition of the Festival Gnaoua Music du Monde. This Festival, like the cemeteries of the different faiths in this small port town, demonstrate explicitly Essaouira’s multi-cultural past and its role as a cultural crossroads, which is unique in Morocco.
The delegation met local school children from the Argania Association who were among the 400 which have passed through the education program accompanying HAF’s cemetery rehabilitation project. They explained what they had learned and their impressions of the project. They expressed an interest in the rich multicultural past of their hometown and said that they had not previously known of the contribution of its non-Muslim residents.
Thanks to the US Ambassador’s Cultural Preservation Fund (ACPF), the High Atlas Foundation and its partners have initiated a preservation and maintenance program for the Muslem, Christian, and Jewish cemeteries in Essaouira, which stand as present-day reminders of the multicultural past of this small city and Morocco at-large, where people of different faiths shared a town, a life, work, a culture, and language. Morocco epitomizes the natural integration of unity and diversity.
In this project, HAF’s partners include the Associations Essaouira-Mogador, Français du monde- ADFE d’Essaouira, Argania and Bayti. The project is possible due to the strong support of the Essaouira Province and the provincial delegations of Culture, Tourism, EntreAide Nationale and Habous and Islamic Affairs as well as the Municipal Council in Essaouira.
The cemetery project is HAF’s first in Essaouira and has helped build relations and experience which HAF hopes will lead to other human development projects in the Province. HAF and community partners plan to implement a cooperative plant and tree nursery and organic certification project in Essaouira Province in the near future.