The setting for the American cinematic classic Casablanca, is the real city of Casablanca, located in the North African Mediterranean country of Morocco. Its architecture reflects the long history of Morocco, a country that’s been a crossroads of culture for centuries.
The country of allure and beauty reflected in its architecture– most of which have survived until today. Successive waves of settlers through both migration and military conquest, are all reflected in Moroccan architecture. Morocco has been influenced by many cultures throughout its history. Elements of North african tribes, Islamic traditions and European colonisers are found blended in Moroccan buildings.
The most recognisably “Moroccan” architecture, however, is the traditional architecture that developed in the Islamic period (7th century and after) which dominates much of Morocco’s documented history and its existing heritage. “Moorish” art, which characterised Morocco is a unique style. Moroccan architecture is distinguished by it “Moorish” arch, riad gardens (courtyard gardens with a symmetrical four-part division), and elaborate geometric and arabesque motifs in wood, stucco, and tile-work.
Design elements of Moroccan architecture also have a strong Islamic influence. These include elaborate geometric patterns, ornamental Islamic calligraphy of Quranic verses, and colourful zellij (a ceramic-tile mosaic). Open courtyards with lavish gardens can also be found at the centre of most buildings: these were constructed as places of privacy and relaxation. Mosques are arguably Morocco’s most important structures. In every city, village, or town – no matter how small – you will find at least one mosque with a tall minaret towering over the city.
The cities of Marrakesh and Fez are usually the main places travelers choose to visit as these two cities offer the most variety in a contained space. Noteworthy buildings to visit include Bahia Palace and Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh, Andalous Mosque and the Museum of Moroccan Arts in Fez. The oldest examples of Moroccan architecture are more easily found in the Atlas Mountains, namely in the ancient kasbahs and old villages. And although it is a more modern city today, Morocco’s capital in Rabat also holds a number of architectural gems such as the Mohamed V Mausoleum.
The architecture reflects the historic crossroads of cultures that have come to inhabit Morocco. Fall in love with the structures which tell of Moroccan history and culture. Moroccan architecture reflects is past; rediscover a history in its sand and stone.