Nature, Culture and History in Tetouan
With Jbel Dersa as a backdrop and the fertile Martil valley stretching out to the northeast of the city, Tetouan has been poetically described as the “white dove” referring to its sparkling white-washed buildings. There are a number of interesting cultural, historical and natural sites to visit in and around the city, and exploring Tetouan should be done at leisure to tap into its ageless charm and hospitality.
The Hassan II square is a good place to start a visit to Tetouan. The historic Caliphate palace is fascinating, as are the nearby souks with their endless variety of goods for sale. The souks also offer visitors the opportunity to buy some hand-crafted items as souvenirs, with everything from beaten copper, to leather items, and spices to traditional foods on sale. Alongside the Hassan II square is the old Jewish Mellah – a walled section within the city where the Jewish population lived. This practice of separating the Jewish population from the other citizens of the city began in the 15th century and only came to an end at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, visitors can walk through the neighborhood and enjoy the wares from traditional Jewish shops while viewing the intricate ceramic embellishments and ironworks on the façades of the buildings.
Anyone with an appreciation for art will enjoy a visit to the city’s artisanal school near the eastern gate of the medina. Here a variety of trades are taught, such as wood crafts, leather working, ceramics and working with fabric and wool. Architecture enthusiasts will note the Spanish influence in the design of many of Tetouan’s buildings, and a walk along Avenue Mohammed V, between the Hassan II square and Moulay Idriss, has some superb examples of this. Located near Al Jalal square, the archeological museum offers insight into the ancient history of north western Morocco, with galleries focusing on the eras of the Roman Empire and the Phoenicians.
Hikers can walk from the city across the spectacular Martil Valley, up the slopes of the mountain and through pine forests to reach the seaside village of Oued Laou, and bird watchers can keep an eye out for the numerous bird species in the area, including some birds of prey such as the Short-toed Eagle and Griffon Vulture. So, whatever your interests, the city of Tetouan has much to offer and is well worth spending a few days to explore.