Tetouan Medina (World Heritage)

Tétouan’s rise began with the immigration of Andalusian Moors and Jews who left Spain during the Reconquista in the 15th century. The immigrants put their stamp on the city, so that it is a testimony to the connection between North African and Andalusian style elements. According to directoryaah, Tétouan has one of the best preserved old towns in Morocco with a souk, mosque and city gates.

Tetouan Medina: Facts

Official title: Medina of Tetouan
Cultural monument: City architecture shaped by the influence of Andalusian emigrants of the 15th century, Moors and Jews; one of the best preserved old towns in Morocco with a souk, great mosque, city gates such as the Bab el Oqla and the Bab Sebta as well as the Dar el Makhzene
Continent: Africa
Country: Morocco
Location: Tétouan (Tetuán / Titawan), near the Mediterranean Sea, at the intersection between Ceuta, Tangier and Chechaouen
Appointment: 1997
Meaning: once a link between North Africa and Andalusia and an example of urban architecture after the Reconquista at the end of the 15th century.

Tetouan Medina: History

at 828 first small Berber settlement
1286 under Merinid rule
around 1300 Construction of the first kasbah (fortress)
1307 actual city foundation under the Merinid sultan Abou Thabet Amorben Abdallah
1400 Destruction of the city by the Spaniards
1430 Refugees from Ronda, Montril, Loja and Baza settled under their military leader Abd ul-Hassan Ali al-Mandari
1501 Arrival of a large stream of Andalusian emigrants from Granada
1565 Destruction of the port by Spanish associations
1749 Construction of the Bet Ha-Knesset Ytzhak Ben Gualid synagogue
1609 Refuge for expelled Moors and Jews
1859-62 Occupation of the city by Spanish troops
1913-56 Capital of Spanish Morocco
1999 Due to the mild climate, Tétouan becomes the summer residence of King Mohammed VI.

“Open your eyes”

Basically we owe this cultural monument to the destruction of the earlier Titawan by the Spaniards; what was defiantly stamped out of the sand after their departure grew into the medina, the unique core of a re-blossoming city that was shaped by Andalusian emigrants of the 15th and 17th centuries, especially Moors and Jews. They created the beating heart of the lively oasis between desert and coast, and so today we find one of the best preserved old towns in Morocco alongside the modern cultural metropolis with museums and houses in the Art Deco style: Architectural pearls are the Berber market, the big one Mosque, the city gates like the “Queen’s Gate”. A tangle of alleys and nooks and crannies, past mosques and fountains, runs through the old town to the new royal palace. This is where the Spanish governors once resided after they occupied the city and proclaimed it the capital of Spanish Morocco. The “daughter of Granada”, called “open your eyes” by the Berbers, was the bridge into the world of the Berbers for Spain, a magical place and at the same time the throne seat of the caliphs. All masters of the city strove to strengthen it and erect even more impressive churches and buildings.

This Moroccan city is a multicultural place: The Jews and Muslims persecuted by the Inquisition found refuge and safe accommodation here, even though their opponents with the Spanish and Portuguese fleets were hot on their heels. Henry III, King of Castile, had a bloodbath set up as a deterrent that triggered the “holy war” against the “infidels”. In retaliation, the Christian rulers sent armies of crusaders against “the barbarians” – a murderous back and forth that shaped the city. What began as a Berber settlement grew under the rule of the Merinids into the first fortified oasis between the sand seas, which became a safe haven for many refugees: Muslims expelled from Europe, Andalusian emigrants from Granada, expelled Moors and, last but not least, countless Jews.

At that time, Tétouan already stood out architecturally from other cities in the region, including Marrakech and its luxurious palaces, from the built-up Meknes and even more so from Ceuta, which was ridiculed as the “ugly pearl of the Mediterranean”. In the last century and a half, Tétouan suffered the fate of many cities in Africa – the occupiers came and went: Spanish troops were followed by those of the German Emperor Wilhelm, who wanted to ruin the appetite of the French and British, and these were again followed by the Spaniards, who did so until 1956 stayed and chose the “daughter of Granada” as the capital of their protectorate. This foreign rule came to an end with the proclamation of independence by Sultan Mohammed ben Youssef, who was crowned king as Mohammed V.

When walking through the picturesque alleys of the medina, one forgets the scholars’ argument about whether Morocco was not always a country of the Berbers instead of the Arabs. After the influx of black slaves, apostates or political renegades, Christian mercenaries and traders, the city was inhabited by a colorful mix of people. And all these newcomers brought their skills and abilities to the design of urban life: artfully tiled city palaces, curved balconies with artistically decorated grilles, countless splendid details – Andalusian, Maghrebian and Arabic. Tétouan unites the diversity of cultures, that of Jews and Muslims, privateers and sultans, artists and merchants. Dyers and tanners still populate the streets of the old town, representatives of venerable trades and trades; many come from the Rif Mountains, as they did in the past. And not only in the Souk el Houdz, the Berber market, does the motto: “Open your eyes” apply.

Tetouan Medina (World Heritage)