Sunday, 28 July 2013

The alleys of the Kasbah of Tangier

A Kasbah is a quarter of North African cities in which the citadel is located. In the old days it was the fortified area townspeople would run to when the city was attacked, much like the forts in old Europe. The kasbahs were built in a time when there were no motorised vehicles and the streets are narrow so that only pedestrians and small animal-drawn carriages can get though. 

The streets of the Kasbah are really tantacle-like alleys, some ending at front doors like here. The old facade on the right contrasts with the renovated one at the end of the lane. While rather decrepit it gives an authentic old oriental feel to the alley.

This small dead-end was closed with a delicately designed wrought iron gate. Again the contrast between old and new.

This one ends in a sort of common shaded patio.

The white washed walls sparkle in the summer sun. The cloth hang out to dry in the alley.

A more colourful covered alley. The ceiling is actually the floor of the house above. Houses are often divided into smaller spaces to accommodate multiple heirs: one brother may have the lower floor and part of the second floor while the other gets the other part and the floors above. It makes for interesting floor plans.

Always the unusual mix of colours, each owner painting "his" wall as he chooses. The result is a modern painting in soft tones. There is true beauty of the Kasbah.

Images: Joelle Desparmet

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The colours of Tangier: blue

Blue, the colour of the sea and the sky that surround you in Tangier but also random splashes of blue here and there and everywhere.

Indigo dyed garments worn by the Tuareg nomads....

...the pale blue flowers of plumbago coming out of a retaining wall.

A plastic covered school chair in the weaver's shop.

A quiet sun-drenched alley in Asilah on a lazy afternoon.

A white and blue striped fouta (Abanja) on a lounger at the L'Océan beach.

A striking blue djellaba on a dignified and elegant old man at the Grand Socco square.

Images: Sylvie Pellet, Joelle Desparmet

Friday, 19 July 2013

A French colonial house in Tangier

Tangier is home to a great number of expats who are usually seasoned world travellers. For their homes they often mix Moroccan decor with a blend of objects brought from their home countries or picked up during their travels. The result is eclectic, very personal and absolutely lovely.

This Frenchman lives in the Kasbah, the fortified, ancient part of the city. This is the view from one side of the house...

...and from another. The view of the bay at sunset with the full moon high in the sky is stunning.

Like most houses in the Kasbah, there are many stories connected to terraces. That's his bedroom behind the wrought iron door. Imagine waking up to the sprawling bay at sunrise.

The hallway connecting one part of the house to another is lined with an antique berber tent tapestry and the ceiling had been painted in the traditional way. "Orientalist" paintings cover the wall.

The decor is a mixture of antique and mid-century modern furniture and art. The two paintings on the right are 1950's portraits of family members.

The bright blue paint of the living room walls works perfectly with the reds of cushions, sofas and carpets.

Traditional lamps hang from a skylight and the corner of a ceiling.

Sparkling brass candelabras sparkle on tables and steps.

Images (sorry, it was getting dark and I took the photos with my old Iphone): Joelle Desparmet

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Joanna's Garden

Joanna is a beautiful, funny, soft-spoken woman who lives part-time in Tangiers. Her garden is like her: colourful, creative and serene with a touch of quirkiness. See my previous post on her house: A very English house in Tangier. She is an expert at the difficult art of mixed borders. In other words, she is English.

Joanna spends a lot of time tending her plants. Too much time, she says. Her gardening gloves are always at the ready to prune, cut back, weed, divide and transplant. The little red table is a sign that this is a very Moroccan garden indeed: Epcot meets Jardin Majorelle.

In the outdoor "potting shed", plants await to be given a new home somewhere. "Me, me, please chose me!"

She obtains plants from friends, nurseries or roadside vendors and finds them an appropriate spot in the sun or the shade. If the plants don't fare well where they are, she does not hesitate to transplant them at the bat of an eye. All this in the intense Moroccan sun.

The garden and house are on a hill overlooking the sea and the garden was landscaped accordingly with retaining walls, gravelled alleys and brick stairs. Each area of the garden flows naturally into the next and looks as if it had always been there even though it has only been a few years.

There is not a spot of soil that is not filled with vines, annuals and perennials, native and imported and even fruit trees. The position of the plants may seem haphazard but every single one is chosen for its colour, time of bloom and height. 

Everywhere, reminders of Joanna's imagination and artistic talent. She is an interior designer after all. The clock actually works. The retaining walls are newly built by talented local artisans.

And when Joanna is done for the day, she dives into the turquoise water of the pool. Yes, that's a gardener watering the plants. He does the heavy digging but she is the one who decides what goes where and plants it all. I love the way she made room for the giant palm tree. Aromatic rosemary surrounds the base of the tree and gives off its delicious scent as one walks by.

Joanna even finds time to entertain. Wonder woman with a british accent but without the clingy suit!

Images: Joelle Desparmet