André Azoulay: “Essaouira has chosen not to let go.”

In order to be legitimate in these spaces of culture and heritage, one must not betray. It is necessary to respect, understand and share. Tomorrow’s tourism will be that of ecology, culture and well-being. Open-ended discussion with André Azoulay.

After months of confinement, Essaouira is the first city to offer a comprehensive programme based on culture, its strength, to boost tourism. How was this roadmap conceived?

We are not yet in the next day. The state of health emergency has been extended until 10 August. Since the beginning of March, we could not stop thinking about Essaouira and making Essaouira think about us. Souirie
 civil society has formed a group of about 40 people with a weekly webinar. We reflected on our capacity to anticipate and prepare a roadmap for the post-Covid-19 period with lucidity and responsibility. The result is fabulous because it is of impressive density, diversity and quality. The Souiri that I am is a little embarrassed by so much immodesty, but that is the reality.

Essaouira, who is the muse of all possibilities, has inspired us for this collective work. The prerequisite after that, and it is a postulate in all that we plan to deploy during the summer period, that is to say for the return to school, is to stick to the sanitary framework of the moment. With this in mind, we have made sure that each of our proposals for action and reunions are largely cultural. The aesthete has to find something to his liking, that emotion is always present but at the same time, that this moment of both emotional and aesthetic pleasure, are proposals that keep their DNA smiled around the values that are ours. Essaouira knows how to invite culture in all its letters of nobility, and invite it to the banquet of thought. A thought which is always in this Moroccan history, which is at the heart of our reflection, of our approach, of the souiri reactor, which is at the same time that of the art of living-together by welcoming diversity, because reality dictates it to us, to give a tone and ecological reflection, which is in the fundamental determinants of our approach. This can be done with more acuity and determinism than in the past, and then well-being. We Smile, we want all these fairies that we invite in our city, both to inspire us, guide us and protect us, not to be a posture. Essaouira is in the legitimacy and the truth.

This world of tomorrow can begin in Essaouira. You talk about ecology, well-being, culture, everything that Essaouira has adopted to rise from its ashes…

 If you allow me, I can even date! One of the first speeches in 1991, in a stadium, at a time when we were traumatized, that Essaouira was on the side of the road, left behind, had this dimension. We promised to make every word we had in our mouths ring out so that people could hear us. I had said that the rebirth of Essaouira would be based on a certain postulate: to ask nothing from anyone and to make do with what we have. Before the protectorate, until the early 1990s, nobody had given anything to Essaouira. We wanted to put forward what belongs to us and that no one can take from us. What belongs to us is each of these old stones, which we wanted to make talk. The history of Essaouira has always been anchored in modernity. We have been Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Europeans, Berbers, Jews, Arab-Muslims. We have chosen to add them all together and not to forget anything. In this Souiri narrative that we have chosen to reconstruct, there is this convergence, and this richness in the addition and not in the subtraction or in the fracture. And then we have added culture in all its expressions. Everything started from there. And more recently, the very rich hippie period gave Essaouira an imprint. All this gave impetus to a strategy for the sustainable development of the city, spontaneously. A decision that raised a lot of doubts at the time. In order to be legitimate in these spaces of culture and heritage, one must not betray. It is necessary to respect, understand and share. Tomorrow’s tourism will be that of ecology, culture and well-being. We did not wait until 2020 to achieve all this.

How is Essaouira, a city based on tourism, culture and sectors affected by the crisis, currently doing?

Essaouira has chosen not to let go. We are ready, the finger on the lever. The Souiris feel both reassured by this roadmap, with a stronger resilience as we project ourselves into the aftermath, we are more than that, we are ready.

Les Souiris have chosen to take themselves in hand. We are ready with this program, which will be within the regulatory and health framework of the moment.

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