Traditional Crafts in Tetouan

Situated on the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Strait of Gibraltar, the city of Tetouan lies on the slopes of the picturesque and fertile Martil Valley. This popular tourist destination is well-known for the traditional crafts produced by skilled artisans, who use techniques passed down through generations to produce a range of beautifully embroidered clothing, deftly woven carpets, expertly crafted leatherwork, intricately carved woodwork, superbly tooled metal work, colorful tiles and exquisite ceramics, with attention paid to detail. While craftsmanship of such quality may be reserved for royalty and the upper echelons of society in some countries, in Morocco even practical items used every day by ordinary citizens are beautifully crafted, and public buildings and private homes often feature hand-crafted treasures, both inside and out.

Strolling through the Medina of Tetouan visitors will note the beautifully carved wooden doors held in place with hinges and latches that are works of art in themselves. Wood carvings may frame the doorways which lead directly onto the cobbled paving walkways, and tiled patterns add color and texture to individual entranceways. Inner courtyards and roof terraces make up the outdoor living spaces of many homes, with tiled floors and carved stone columns being typical. Tiled or marble fountains are a popular feature of inner courtyards, with the tranquil trickling of water adding to the atmosphere.

Stucco carving is often used to decorate walls and ceilings and the complexity and variety of the designs used is seemingly endless. Layers of plaster on walls or ceilings are painstakingly carved by hand with a range of precision chisels and tools. Some of these stucco carvings may have more than one layer, and some may have colors incorporated into them. Decorative painting on doors, windows and ceilings are just as noteworthy, as is the skill and patience of the artisans creating them.

To ensure that Morocco’s traditional arts are passed down to future generations, master artisans at the Artisanal School in Tetouan teach apprentices age-old techniques for painting, woodwork, metalwork, ceramics, stucco carving and textiles, among others. King Mohammed VI is a patron of the school, supporting the efforts to preserve the traditions of Moroccan crafts. Visitors to this exotic North African country should take time to note the creative beauty all around them when exploring Morocco’s cities, towns and villages.