The magic of Morocco is found in many places and one of them is in the hand painted doors of Essaouira. To travel inside Morocco is to visit this vast country one door at a time. Moroccan doors in Essaouira are ordained with Moorish style motifs, chamsa door knockers and painted in a variety of hues such as in Majorelle blue and canary yellow. Doors in Morocco are a gateway to another world and bare emblem of history along with the secret lives in a Moroccan home. Made of wood, metal and plaster Moroccan doors are a photographers dream as they make for the perfect subject matter.
Many of the designs on Moroccan doors’ geometrical Moorish and Jewish motifs evoke centuries of history. Moroccans of both Muslim and Jewish decent have lived peacefully together for decades therefore cities like Essaouira, Fes and Marrakech have hallmarks on their doors that range from unique patterns to Jewish stars and are often dated. The doors of Morocco bare both the Moorish and Jewish influence and this can be found especially in Morocco’s Jewish mellahs.
Essaouira has a long and rich history which dates back to the 16th century when it was discovered by the Portuguese who named it “Mogador.” The Berber name “Mogador” means wall, a reference to the fortress walls that originally enclosed the city. Essaouira was built during the 18th century. Mohammed III decided to oriented the Kingdom of Morocco for change and trade with Europe andchose Mogador as the key location. One of his objectives was to establish a harbour at the closest possible point from the Imperial city of Marrakech. The other was to cut off trade from Agadir in the south. This resulted in the inahabitants of Agadir being forced to relocate to Essaouira.
For 12 years, Mohammed III oversaw a French engineer, Theodore Cornut and several other European architects who built the fortress and city along modern lines. Originally called “Souira,” the small fortress, then became “Es-Saouira”, the beautifully designed.” Part of those designs remain today in the architecture of the doors found in the old medina.
Moroccan architecture is an eclectic, even cosmopolitan cultural blend that reflects its long and rich history. Morocco’s indigenous people are the Berbers, who farmed the land from at least 2000 BC. Subsequent rulers and invaders included Arabians, the Spanish, the Portuguese and in recent, colonial times, French occupiers. Morocco was declared a French protectorate in 1912, the same year as the painted Henry Matisse came to the Maghreb.
The Hispano-Moorish architectural style of Morocco’s doors originated in Spain (in Andalusia), and was taken across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco at the behest of the ruling Berber Almoravid dynasty. The Almoravids sent Spanish artisans to Morocco, where they introduced the graceful arches and lofty domes that, along with white walls and green stucco roofs, have become hallmarks of the Hispano-Moorish style. As a result of people being smaller centuries ago doors were smaller and alleyways narrower. Many of the homes in the medinas (old cities) are over 1,000 years old, and a world of history can be found behind each door.
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