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Upon stepping into Tetouan, I immediately felt as though I had been transported back in time. Nestled in the northern part of Morocco, this city, often known as the "White Dove", bears the most authentic memories of Andalusian heritage, lying just across the Mediterranean.
In the late 15th century, the Christian Reconquista in Spain caused many Andalusians, both Muslims and Jews, to seek refuge across the Strait of Gibraltar. Tetouan, being closest and most welcoming, became their new home. The echoes of this history are clearly felt in the city's vibrant Hispano-Moorish architecture, the rhythm of its life, and, notably, in its crafts.
While strolling through the city's meandering alleys, I was instantly captivated by the artisanal shops displaying their rich variety of crafts. Pottery and woodworking, I was told, were the city's specialties.
The woodwork of Tetouan is truly unique. The artisans coat the wood with a plaster-like layer, and once it dries, they paint it, typically with bold red or blue hues. The magic begins when the dry object is brought to life with hand-painted motifs—stylized floral designs sketched beforehand. The artisans mix pigment with adhesive or egg white to create their masterpiece. The final touch is a coat of resin-based varnish, giving it a charming gloss.
These stylized floral motifs frequently depict lilies, daisies, and roses in vibrant shades of pink, red, orange, and brown. The dark green foliage is outlined with a soft, light green. Blue scrolls highlight the exterior of the floral composition, while the whole piece is often bordered with a geometric figure in green, orange, or blue, lined with two shades of dark green.
As I admired these pieces, I couldn't help but marvel at the enduring legacy of Andalusian culture in Tetouan. Despite the passage of time, the city retains an artistic dialogue with its past, a testament to the resilience of its people and their culture. As I left Tetouan, I felt a deep sense of connection with the city and its artisans, whose work so vividly tells the story of this Andalusian enclave in Morocco.