Thursday, November 04, 2010

Postcard from Tetouan

"It's about to explode", says Maribel Jimenez of Blanco Riad in Tetouan, of tourism in the city. The View from Fez takes a look.

Tetouan's location close to the Mediterranean coast makes it a sure-fire winner when it comes to tourism potential. There are plenty of developments on the coast, especially at M'diq with its beautiful beach, just a short taxi-ride away. HM the King spends time there and has lavished attention on it and the surrounding area.

The city has a wonderful Andalusian heritage that is reflected in its Mauresque buildings. Moors and Jews escaped persecution in Spain, particularly Granada, from the 15th century onwards and took refuge here.

Bacturia Church (left) in Place Moulay el-Mehdi

Tetouan also has its own style of decor - it's well known for its furniture made of cedarwood inlaid with mother-of-pearl decoration, and Spanish-influenced, heavily decorated ceramic tiles with a bronze sheen. This form of tiling is best seen at the guesthouse El Reducto in the medina.

tiled column at El Reducto guesthouse

We made a special point of visiting the Archaeology Museum, set in pretty gardens. It features Roman mosaic floors all the way from Lixus, that we'd visited earlier in our trip (see the story here).

Best of all, perhaps, are the four quirky towers on Place Hassan II, outside the Royal Palace. No, they're not minarets; they're light towers, designed by a student of Gaudi.

light tower in Place Hassan II

The whitewashed medina is well worth a visit. We stayed at the new Blanco Riad, a wonderful blend of traditional architecture and furniture with a dash of modern Spain. The original zellij floors have been retained in some of the bedrooms, and are magnificent.

The ground floor has a hammam in one of the salons; another is a superb restaurant that's open to the public. Traditional Moroccan food is served, but with a modern twist - for example, pigeon pastilla with foie gras, or stuffed calamari tubes.

The dining room at Blanco Riad; Tetouan furniture (right)

Outside is a peaceful, Zen-like garden, shaded from the sun.

Interesting architecture, new places to stay, excellent restaurants, proximity to fabulous Mediterranean beaches - we think Maribel might just be right.

Blanco Riad: Tel: 0539 704 202

See all The View from Fez POSTCARDS HERE.


tagalong said...

I've passed through Tetouan several times while traveling through the north of Morocco. A very green and beautiful place and hope to return again one day and spend some time there.

Nick said...

uh...Christians were definitely not fleeing Granada in the 15th century. Any Christian in Tetouan at that time was probably a slave...or dead.

The View from Fez said...

Oops! Our mistake. Thanks for pointing it out.