The great pyramids at Giza, EgyptElephants crossing the Zambezi river in Mana Pools National Park world heritage site, ZimbabweThe great mosque in the Old Towns of Djenne world heritage site, MaliBlack and white ruffed lemur, Rainforests of the Atsinanana world heritage site, Madagascar

Medina of Tetouan - Morocco

Map showing the location of the Medina of Tetouan UNESCO world heritage site, Morocco

Website Category: Fortified Cities of the Maghreb

 Area: 6.5 km2 

Inscribed: 1997

Criteria: (ii)  interchange of values (iv)  icon of an era (v)  interaction with the environment

Location and Values:  The Medina of Tetouan is located in the hills above the Straits of Gibraltar, at a crossroads between Muslim North Africa and Christian Europe.  The site of the present-day Medina has been settled since the 8th century, and was developed as a major centre by the Merenids from 1307.  The Merenid city was later destroyed by the Spanish in 1399, and only re-established in 1484 by Muslims and Jews fleeing the Christian re-conquest of southern Spain.  The ramparts of the present-day Medina were added in the 17th century under Moulay Ismail. Thus, the oldest parts of the present-day Medina date from the 16th to 18th centuries and its architecture, culture and arts signify a distinctly Spanish influence.

The 17th century ramparts are approximately 5 km in length and accessed by seven gates. These are linked to one another by the main streets with a maze of smaller twisting alleys and low, covered passageways in between. The tightly clustered buildings are interspersed with small squares and open spaces, packed with informal market stalls and crowded with people. Often it is difficult to catch a glimpse of the more significant buildings – mosques, zaouias and fondouks (inns) through the street-level chaos. 

Slideshow of the Medina Of Tetouan:  The slideshow begins with a couple of views of the tightly-packed buildings of the Medina clinging to the hillside of the Jebel Dersa from outside the city walls, and some of the sprawling informal markets that fill the pavements around the walls and ramparts. Entering the medina at Bab Tout, the photos take you on a walking tour through the narrow, crowded streets and alleyways, eventually emerging at Bab Sebta, the gate at the northern end of the Medina.  Here, in the shadow of the city walls, traditional leather dying pits can be seen.  The tour continues through the Medina – and up onto the rooftops to see the mountains around - to re-emerge through Bab el Okla.  Outside the walls the Artisan School, where traditional art and craft skills are being kept alive, is shown, together with some of the demonstrations by craftsmen at the Ensemble Artisanal. The last few pictures show the main gate of the Royal Palace at Place Hassan II, together with some of the Spanish colonial architecture in the new town outside the medina around the Place Moulay El Mehdi (which lies just outside the world heritage property).

Slideshow of the Medina Of Tetouan:

Comments and Impressions:  Of the various fortified towns in the Mahgreb, the Medina of Tetouan seems the most crowded and chaotic, filled with informal stalls and too many piles of garbage.  This is unfortunate, because much of the historical interest, architectural and artistic qualities are ‘lost’ to visitors behind the façade of daily commerce.

Google Earth View:  To view satellite imagery of the Medina of Tetouan on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.

Links to other places featuring fortified cities of the Maghreb:  Beni Hammad  I  Algiers Fez  I  Marrakech  I  Meknes  I  Tunis  I  Kerkuane  I  Kairouan  I  Sousse

Other Links:     Official UNESCO Site Details

Tightly packed white-washed buildings clinging to the hillsides of the Jebel Dersa in the Medina of Tetouan UNESCO world heritage site, Morocco The ramparts of the Medina of Tetouan UNESCO world heritage site, Morocco Entrance of Derkaoua Zaouia, just inside the northern ramparts at Bab Sebta in the Medina of Tetouan UNESCO world heritage site, Morocco Public fountain and entrance to one of the many historic mosques in the Medina of Tetouan UNESCO world heritage site, Morocco



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