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Tetouan & Chefchaouen

TETOUAN

In the words of Arab poets, Tetouan is a white dove, “the sister of Fez”, “the little Jerusalem”, or “the daughter of Granada”. The town, built partly on the slopes of Jbel Dersa, was inhabited by Jewish refugees from Granada in the 15th century, then by moors from Andalusia in the 17th century.

The town’s Andalusian heritage can be seen in its medina, as well as its culinary traditions, music and craft of embroidery.

In the 18th century the city had acquired such an importance in trade with Europe that it became Morocco’s diplomatic capital. The Spanish, who held Tetouan from 1860 to 1862, made it their capital during the Protectorate, building a new town on the West side of the old Andalusian medina.

Ville Nouvelle
It is on the Place Moulay El Mehdi – which is sometimes still referred to as by the town’s inhabitants as Place Primo (after the Spanish politician José Primo de Rivera) – that the Spanish colonial architecture of Ville Nouvelle (New Town) is at its most eloquent.

With a main post office, bank and church (1926), the square looks like any other central town square in Spain. Both the town’s principal thoroughfare, Boulevard Mohammed V, and the Hassan II square come to life in the evening with the paseo (promenade), a Spanish custom that is more deeply ingrained in Tetouan than elsewhere.

Medina
Tetouan’s medina, now a World Heritage Site, is the most strongly Andalusian of all Moroccan medinas. Emigrants from Spain who arrived in the 15th and 17th century implanted their architectural traditions here.

The aroma of spices, freshly sawn wood and bread fills the medina’s narrow streets, squares and souks, which bustle with carpenters, slippers makers, drapers, tanners and sellers of second-hand goods. Rue El Mokadem is the street most densely packed with shops, but also one of the most noteworthy for its impressive white buildings and its paving.

Sellers of Riffian fabrics and pottery fill the small shady square where the El Houts souk takes place, leading to the former Mellah, Tetouan’s Jewish quarter.

Museums
The rooms of the Archaeological Museum contain objects dating from the Roman period that were discovered on a Roman site on the outskirts of Tetouan. Showing mosaics, pottery, coins and bronzes inside, the museums most interesting exhibits – such as ancient inscriptions, mosaic floors and Muslim funerary steles with the David star - are laid out in the garden.

Occupying a bastion built in 1828, the Moroccan Art Museum is laid out in an Andalusian palace with a garden, a fountain clad in zellij tilework and red-tiled awnings, typical of Tetouan buildings.

The furniture, the craftsman-made pieces, the costumes and musical instruments illustrate the town’s traditions. The Craft School near the museum occupies a residence built in 1928 in Moorish style. Specializing in local traditions, the leatherwork, pottery, mosaic, carpets and decorative plasterworks of the students is displayed in a domed exhibition hall.

Weather

Winter temperature = 10 - 20°C. Summer = 20 – 30°C.

Mediterranean climate with rainy winters and high humidity level throughout the year

CHEFCHAOUEN

The white town of Chefchaouen nestles in the hollow of the two mountains Ech-Chaoua (The Horns), from which it takes its name. Steep narrow streets with white and indigo limewashed buildings, small squares, ornate fountains and houses with elaborately decorated doorways and red tile roofs make this a delightful town.

It was founded in 1471 by Idrissid shorfa, descendants of the prophet Mohammed, as a stronghold in the fight against the Portuguese. With its 8 mosques and several zaouias and marabouts, Chefchaouen is considered a holy town.

Ras el Ma
Beyond the Bab el Ansar gateway, is the well of Ras el Ma (water head), which is now enclosed by a building. Accounting for the town’s lush gardens and powering the mills, the presence of the underground spring was the main reason for the establishment of the town at this location. With its cascades, wash-houses, mills and cafés, Ras el Ma is considered to be one of Chefchaouen’s most pleasant quarters.

Uta el Hammam square and the Grand Mosque
The square is the heart of the old town and the focal point on which all the streets of the medina converge. It is lined with trees, paved with stones and pebbles, and in the centre stands a four-sided fountain decorated with arches and crowned by a pavilion of green tiles. With shops and cafés, this is an ideal place for a relaxed stroll.

The Grand Mosque at the square is distinctive for being octagonal and for its decoration with zellij tilework tiers and ochre background. Probably founded in the 16th century, it has been remodelled several times since.

Kasbah and Ethnographic museum
Built between the 15th and 17th century in an Andalusian style with ten bastions and walls of red beaten earth, the Kasbah is the essential heart of the town. The Ethnographic museum, occupying the residence built in the garden, contains displays of pottery, armour, embroidery, costume, musical instruments, palanquins and painted wooden chests.

Fondouk
Chefchaouen’s Fondouk still serves its original purpose; around 50 rooms, arranged around the courtyard, accommodate travellers and passing traders. The building’s strikingly simple design is in remarkable contrast to its the main entrance door, which is surmounted by an awning and framed with interlacing horse shoe arches.

Medina
The Souïka (little market) is the oldest district of Chefchaouen and has the town’s finest houses with carved and decorated doors.

The narrow streets contain many small shops and more than 100 weavers’ workshops. Indeed the town is famous for the woollen jellabas that are woven here, as well as the red and white striped fabrics worn by the women of the Jebala, a tribe of the western Rif.

Weather

Winter temperature = 8 - 18°C. Summer = 20 – 35°C.

Dry and sunny climate. Big night/day temperature difference.