Named after the agadir (fortified granary) of the Irir tribe, Agadir has a long history of boom and bust. It was founded in the 15th century by Portuguese merchants wanting to develop trade links with the Saharan caravans. From the mid-16th century, as the Saadian empire expanded, the port became prosperous from the export of local sugar, cotton and saltpetre, and products from Saharan trade, which the Moroccans then controlled. But this prosperity ended in the 1760s, when the Alawite Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah diverted the trade to Essaouira.
The French colonists went some way towards redeveloping Agadir in the 20th century, but the earthquake on 29 February 1960 completely destroyed the city. As many as 18,000 people perished, around half of the population. The authorities, unable to cope with the apocalyptic aftermath of death and disease, sprayed the area with lime and DDT, and left the dead where they had been buried, in the collapsed city. The mound this created is now known as Ancienne Talborjt.
Since its reconstruction, Agadir has developed into an important port, with a large fishing fleet helping to make Morocco the world’s largest exporter of tinned sardines. Agadir has also become Morocco’s top beach resort, and the luxury marina complex signals ambitions to move upmarket.