Fondouk el-Nejjarine – Showcasing Moroccan Woodcarving
The ancient city of Fez in Morocco is a veritable treasure chest of history and culture with many worthwhile attractions highlighting the rich traditions of the Moroccan people. One of these attractions is the Fondouk el-Nejjarine, which is home to the Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts, or Musée du Bois, located near the Henna Souk area of Fez el-Bali. As the name suggests, this museum showcases the skill of woodcarvers and artists both in the embellishments of the building and the intricately decorated items on display. Recognizing the need to preserve this ancient craft and display it to both local and international visitors, Fondouk el-Nejjarine was declared a national monument in 1916 and underwent extensive restoration work in 1988.
Fondouk el-Nejjarine was originally built in the 18th century as a caravanserai (roadside inn) in Fez where travelers could rest before continuing their, sometimes arduous, journey. These buildings, which are found throughout Morocco, were typically built in a square or rectangular shape around an inner courtyard, usually with a fountain in the middle creating an oasis from the Moroccan heat. Fondouk el-Nejjarine follows this style, with the two upper floors featuring beautifully carved wooden arches and railings from which visitors can look down upon the courtyard.
While moving ahead with the times, Morocco has managed to hold on to its age-old traditions and crafts, such as Tadelakt, woodwork and woodcarving. Various types of timber are used in Moroccan woodcarving, including oak, mahogany, acacia and cedar, with the latter being one of the most popular, most likely due to its availability in Morocco, particularly in the Middle Atlas regions, but also because of its durability, warm shades of color and its texture which is particularly suited to carving.
Woodwork in Moroccan architecture is both a form of artistic expression, as well as being an aspect of Islamic culture and tradition readily recognized in many North African countries. This ancient skill has been passed down through generations and is still going strong, particularly in the cities of Marrakech, Tetouan, Essaouira, Meknes and Fez. Visitors exploring the Medina of Fez will come across artists practicing this ancient art-form as they carve items that are often for practical use, as well as being decorative. A visit to Fondouk el-Nejjarine should be on your itinerary when you visit Fez, as it is a superb example of a distinctive and beautiful traditional Moroccan craft.