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Moroccan Architecture

In Morocco, you will see a number of unique architectural styles that vary significantly between the cities and the countryside. Moroccan cities, some of which are a thousand years old, were constructed inside high walls, which can be up to fifteen feet thick. Since ancient times, travelers have entered the cities through massive gates, which are often decorated with elaborately carved stone or tile. Each of the gates has a name, and these names are still used today to identify the surrounding neighborhoods. The cities themselves are organized around a coherent plan: the palace is in the center of the city, surrounded by the Kasbah or military district, and the outermost circle is the medina, were the townspeople live and work. New towns constructed outside the old neighborhoods by French colonial administrations are known for their distinctive Art Deco style.

Traditional Moroccan homes include five key elements: cedar wood, mosaic tile, carved plaster, marble, and a central fountain. Private homes are often organized around a central courtyard or atrium that may have a fountain or small trees, and this architectural design helps cool the houses during hot weather. Examples of this architecture can be seen in museums, riads, and many older restaurants. Some of the most well-preserved examples of traditional architecture are found in the medersas, or religious schools, of Fes and Marrakech. The beautiful artistry of the recently-completed Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca demonstrates that traditional architectural skills are still valued and have been maintained among Morocco’s contemporary craftsmen.

In the countryside, the architecture is of a markedly different style, characterized by ksars, fortified towns built of adobe and wood that are often situated near an oasis. The spectacular Ait Ben Haddou is the best-known example of this architecture. The simplest Moroccan dwelling is the nomad’s tent, which is woven from camel hair. Even here, Moroccans demonstrate artistry in carved tent pegs, woven support bands, and the carpets that line the interior of the tent.

Some of Morocco’s former inhabitants have left behind traces of their own architectural traditions. There are spectacular Roman ruins in Volubilis and Rabat (Chellah), and several Portuguese forts constructed in the 16th century still stand in Essaouira and El Jadida.








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