Many cities of any size in Morocco have a Medina ‘quarter’; these are distinct city sections which are often the oldest part of the city, walled, with maze like streets and relatively car free. Many cultural, historical and architecturally interesting features can be found in medinas.
A stimulating and visually interesting aspect of walking Moroccan medinas is viewing the colours and street art used to decorate the many alleys and lanes. More than just brightening up inner city thoroughfares it has been suggested that colours are used intentionally as tourist and cultural branding exercises, and that cities are recognised often internationally due to their colours. Examples of this are Chefchaouen, world famous for its blue walls, and Marrakesh, well known for its red colour. Other reasons and explanations for the adoption of colour schemes include reflecting local natural colours, influences from local or national religious associations, regional cultural influences and influence of colour from sub-saharan African contexts.
I made the journey to Interzone from Tarifa across the 11 mile stretch of Atlantic where, in the distance, the Rif mountains stood in a coruscating haze of a bright September day. Interzone is an area where sea, ocean and cultures collide.
Tangier was an International Zone from 1912 to 1956 and became the destination for many European and American spies, writers, artists and musicians. It enjoyed a reputation for hedonism where any pleasure was readily available. Indeed author William S. Burroughs who lived for long spells in Tangier, wrote, “Tangier is one of the few places left in the world where, so long as you don’t proceed to robbery, violence, or some form of crude, antisocial behaviour, you can do exactly what you want.” (more…)
It was almost 2 years ago that I was in Morocco on the occasion of the Muslim celebration of Eid al Adha, more commonly known as the Feast of Sacrifice, a celebration of significant importance in the Arab world which marks the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
I had crossed into Africa by ferry from the Spanish port of Tarifa and completely by accident found myself at the beginning of the preparations for the festival in Tangier. Sheep and goats were herded through the city streets, loaded into cars and busses and chased through the colourful narrow streets of the medina. Adults and children were excited as the animals neared their own homes, children rushed to greet them and local families keenly watched as sheep and goats were tethered outside in the medina. Residential areas became temporary livestock quarters. In the Muslim cemetery adjacent to the strikingly green Marshan Mosque hundreds of feted but fey animals grazed on the grasses between gravestones, shepherds watching and ensuring their short term safety. Walking back into the city, the spinning wheels of grinding machines noisily announced the incipient celebration as men queued with knives at the roadside hardware shops lining the Avenue d’Anglettere.
‘It is only after years of preparation that the young artist should touch color – not color used descriptively, that is, but as a means of personal expression’
Commanding magnificent views over the city of Tangier and the Atlantic ocean to the coast of Spain in the distance, the villa is a surrealist design constructed from re-inforced concrete. It is many miles away in character from the monumental concrete buildings of Auguste Perrot, Erno Goldfinger, and Swiss architect Le Corbusier which helped define the brutalist architectural style popular from the 1950s into the mid 1970s.
Berber architect Mokhtar El Boufounas’ building in Tangier, although built entirely from raw concrete and large and dominating, is still far from completion. It can conservatively be described as having a greater affinity with Antonio Gaudi, Salvador Dali or Pablo Picasso than its monumental cousins; its definite Spanish roots accord synchronously with its views of the Andalusian Costa de Luz only 20 miles away. Dolphins playfully hug its 4 corner pillars and a huge concrete crown, eagle and plane sit upon its roof. Inside there are ornamentations, cutaways and organic designs which add to the theme of playfulness and lightness. (more…)