Friday, 11 January 2013

The doors of Tangier

What is a front door? Is it a barrier that turns a foe away or a soft veil you pull back to let a friend in?

The doors of traditional Tangier homes are both these things: thick, strong and locked but ready to be opened with a smile. And even then, a door never opens directly onto a room. One must never see inside from the street. The home is private and not everyone gains access but once you are invited in, the welcome is sincere and warm.

The home is the realm of women as the streets and cafés are the realm of men. Once inside, women shed their outer garments called djellabas, and their head scarfs. Behind doors, they are themselves. Outside, they hide their bodies and faces and become what others want them to be. Isn't that what we  all do?

A front door shields and protects but also summons and welcomes. A closed door is forbidding and mysterious but it holds the promise of warmth, safety and sustenance. Thus are the doors of Tangier.

A woman peeking outside in the Kasbah
She seems ready to rush back in at the first sign of a stranger coming down the alley but takes a quick glance outside between her chores.

The ornate facade of a house in the medina. 
The choice of yellow is bold and modern and enhances the intricate antique carving and tiles. The door is opened but there are other doors in the dark vestibule. The shutters are closed and we can only wonder: what secrets do they protect?

My neighbour's modest door 
Flowering roses in the shade of the faded stucco adorn the window. The front door is solid and shut tight but the facade is cheerful and welcoming much like its owner.

This building close to the house is the ancient mausoleum of a marabout
A marabout is a muslim religious leader and teacher. He is often a scholar of the Qur'an, the muslin holy writings. Religious meetings take place here on islamic holidays. The door is opened wide then but only a chosen few can enter.
This mausoleum was made famous by Matisse who painted it when he stayed in Tangier in 1912.

A massive carved and painted wood door  
It is topped by a stunning ceiling. The door hinges at the top of the door are in fact simple mortise and tenon systems that rotate inside the star-like boxes at the top with similar ones at the bottom.

The simplicity of a door
The softness of the pastel colours, the serenity of the modest entrance, that is the magical beauty of Tangier. You can almost smell cumin, ginger and cinnamon mixed with sweet jasmin and lemony lentana wafting out of the wrought iron open transom.

A simple brown door at the end of a cobbled path
In Morocco, an alley that is painted blue like this one signifies a dead end: there is no exit, advance no further unless you have been invited. The plant is a giant pelargonium intermingled with ivy. In summer it is covered in huge red flowers.

Three majestic doors surrounded by carved stone 
They are the entrances to an ancient Sultan's Palace in the Kasbah dating back centuries. The first door leads to a section of the Palace that is closed and uninhabited.
The other two are entrances to Hotel Nord Pinus which recently opened and has sweeping views on Spain and the Bay of Tangier. Behind awaits a grand marble hall with antique tiled walls and a small stone fountain.

A child-size but intricate oak door in an opening in the rampart of the Kasbah
Who is peering out at us through the three holes to the right of the door? Little children or giggling elves? We may never find out.

Do come in and welcome to our homes in Tangier.

PHotos: JADH Design, Sylvie Pellet and Joëlle Desparmet


  1. I am here from your sister's blog...this is such a lovely, exotic post...a nice little escape for me this morning.

    1. Thank you Mary Ann. I am glad you enjoyed your virtual trio to Tangier. Please drop by again.

  2. I came over to take a look at your blog from your sister's + I signed up to follow you. Love the post, both of you have a way with words + great photos. I know I will love following you. Welcome to the world of blogging

    1. Peggy,love your blog. I am definitely following it. I am grocery shopping tomorrow morning and making that spiced pumpkin soup!!

  3. So nice to find your blog through your sister. I think I will enjoy it and welcome to the world of blogging!

    1. Thank you, Theresa, for your encouraging words. Blogging can be quite daunting at first. I hope you will enjoy my blog.

  4. I am also here via your sister - lovely to see some architecture from Tangier.

    1. Thank you for dropping by. There will be much about Tangier Architecture and all sorts of things. I hope you enjoy it.

  5. Bravo Joelle, tu nous offres une jolie déclinaison de portes marocaines auxquelles tu as su si bien donner une âme ... et quel plaisir de retrouver Matisse (one of my favorite painters) qui, avec ses lignes aux formes arrondies et son génie de la couleur, semble être en totale correspondance avec Tanger

  6. Your blog is so enjoyable. please write more often, if you can