Website Category: Fortified Cities of the Maghreb
Area: 6.5 km2
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.
Other Links: Official UNESCO Site Details