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Andalusia begins in northern Morocco....

In the narrow alleyways of the white medina (Arabic for "old town") of Tetouan is where the spirit of the ancient Al-Andalus lives on. This is because most of the displaced Andalusian refugees, around five million Muslims and Jews, driven from their homes in southern Spain during the Reconquista by the Catholic kings, found acceptance and a homeland in the northern Moroccan cities  like Tetouan, Chefchaouen, Fes and Rabat.

But it is first and foremost the two cities Tetouan and Chefchaouen, Morocco's Andalusian gems, which allow us to gain a sense of Andalusian ways of life, in fact even to experience them to a certain extent. Tetouan and Chefchaouen, known as the daughters of the city of Granada, are the most Andalusian cities of Morocco and are especially proud of their Andalusian past.

As early as 1430, the first refugees from Malaga and Granada led by a general by the name of Al Mandari, settled in Tetouan, where they agreed to build their city from scratch – drawn by the landscape, which reminded them of Granada. Jewish refugees from Al-Andalus quickly followed and settled next to the medina – a Tetouan neighbourhood known as Mellah (Jewish quarter) dates back to this time.

Together they transplanted Andalusian artistry, beauty of form and colour, as well as the Andalusian-Mediterranean charm of their lifestyle, to Tetouan and surrounded the city with a mighty wall – to this day, the Andalusian Old Town of Tetouan with its seven gates is the most complete and untouched medina in Morocco.

Over the course of its 500-year history Tetouan has been able to maintain its Andalusian-Moorish character, and more than that: in the heart of all north-western Moroccans resides an Andalusian soul. This is manifested in the opulent ceramic tiles designed with artistic finesse – found in the interior courtyards, mosques, public baths, Andalusian art schools, tea houses, parks, gardens, fountain surrounds and grand houses of Tetouan, but also in Andalusian music, which to this day maintains all its beauty and oriental dynamism in Morocco and throughout the Maghreb.

The Moroccan historian Al Wazani from Tetouan gets to the heart of this Andalusian spirit when he characterises northern Morocco's affinity with Andalusia thus: "We left Al-Andalus, but we didn't leave its history."


Mourad Kusserow - Qantara.de 2018