The High Atlas Foundation and its partners have initiated a preservation and maintenance program for the Muslim, 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. This project supports building a website and an education program for students of Essaouira and planting & maintenance of the cemeteries.
For the majority of Essaouira/Mogador history, Arabs, Berbers, Moslems, Jews, European and African -- had lived together long enough that they shared language, culture, traditions, recipes, and work. This was a harmonious co-existence, and can be remembered through the cemeteries, which tell these histories. However, due to irrosion and lack of public space, cemeteries of the three faiths are not maintained, and those who know the history are growing older.
In order to perpetuate the memory and to re-kindle the spirit of this rich past, approximately 400 local students and teachers will visit cemeteries over one academic year. The preservation of these sacred sites will include skills training for the current guardians, actions to limit cemetery deterioration, preservation of writing upon graves and its cataloging, and sustainable plantings and maintenance in all 3 cemeteries to, avoid erosion, make them more inviting, and (3) encourage respect.
This project seeks to raise awareness of this richness (through education locally), to increase understanding of its uniqueness (through the media), and to instill pride in the inclusive aspects of the Moroccan identity, which Essaouira so clearly represents. This project is particularly important for its potential to demonstrate to the entire world that Moslems and Jews can live together in harmony because here, they in fact have lived together in harmony for centuries.
This project has provided additional documentation in a Microsoft Word file (projdoc.doc).
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UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Day Event