Thursday, 16 May 2013

The old splendour of Tangier

The cities of Morocco are studies in architecture: the old and the new, the contemporary and the ancient, the purely moor and the colonial French or Spanish. Tangier is no different.
In some neighbourhoods of Tangier one is transported to Nice, Madrid or Paris. These old buildings date from the beginning of the 20th century. Some are occupied and well maintained, others are weatherbeaten and in need of some renovation, others still are abandoned. They were left behind by families who had been established in Tangier for generations and who left in the 40's and 50's.

It is said that some abandoned houses belonged to jewish families who went away thinking they might return and just locked the door behind them. They never came back and left behind lovely houses which cannot be sold as there is no owner to sell them. I would love to get my hands on this one and restore it to its original beauty. I can just imagine lounging on the upper terrace staring at the fabulous spectacle of the sun setting on the glittering sea.

A cement-blocked door in a gabled entryway, the lonely remnant of what was once someone's home.

A lovely metal grate garage door reminiscent of the 1950's "modernisation" of Tangier .

Some buildings are maintained somewhat and hark back to a time when Tangier was an international hub of hip culture, intrigue and carefree living sought out by westerners in search of adventure and thrills of all sorts.

Some buildings have been extensively restored. Villa Léon l'Africain was recently refurbished by Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent's long time partner.

In this before photo, the facade had intricate moulding and was painted in bright yellow...

...a front porch with elegant columns was added and the sunny colour softened.

Villa Léon l'Africain is a typical colonial house built in 1910 and was the home of Richard Timwell from 1967 when he retired from his work at Sotheby's. The grounds were freshened by a well known landscaper and boast many rare tropical plants and palm trees a reminder of Pierre Bergé's influence on the design of the gardens of Villa Majorelle in Marrakech.

Images: Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart, Joelle Desparmet and unknown

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