Morocco 2017: The Ethnographic Museum in Chefchaouen – The Director’s Cut

My original travel journals were split across August Phoenix Hats and a few other websites. February 2021 marked the 12th anniversary of the beginning of my travels. To keep myself sane during the pandemic lockdown, I started reissuing my journals as Director’s Cuts, with the complete text and additional photos.  

My travels have taken me through Italy, Turkey and Spain. In 2017 I hit the top of my bucket list with a belated birthday gift to myself – a guided trip to Morocco. Today’s sites include a qasaba and a museum of Moroccan craft.

The first site I see in the Blue City is the Qasaba, built in 1471 by Moulay el Ben Rashid ed Alami in the Andalusian style. Inside its crenelated wall there’s a watch tower, and a manor house at the opposite end, separated by gardens and fountains which were important to Islamic cultures during this time period. Nearly every building of consequence had some version of these elements.

The manor house is built in what I now recognize as a traditional riad style, with 2-3 stories of rooms surrounding an open courtyard. The fountain in the center is original but I suspect most of the interiors have been reconstructed. It is unfurnished except for the lanterns. The glass is an example of the pressed patterned glass that is used everywhere here – in doors, lanterns, windows. This building is the home of the Qasaba Ethnographic Museum, displaying traditional Moroccan craft.

There were several settees displaying tradition craft.

This replica workshop displayed the steps employed in plaster carving on a wall. The back wall shows the template that the workmen were copying onto another section of the wall. Tools and examples of the plaster carving were laid out on a table. A video in another section of the museum showed a woman demonstrating plaster carving. It’s a pretty fascinating process. I saw a great deal of this art form in historic buildings in Morocco and Moorish Spain (most notably the Alhambra). It was fun to see templates, both in static museum displays and in active use in furniture and ceramic shops that I would see later throughout Morocco.

A replica of a mosaic workshop showed clay that was glazed and baked in slabs, and then chiseled into 700+ different shapes for assembling into mosaics. Another replica shop showed the different types of clay used to make the slabs. I would learn more about this process at the Art Tile factory in Fez.

A painter’s workshop included brushes, and jars of pigment. I found sacks of similar pigments on the sidewalk in front of a few shops when I returned to the town square.

A final display showed the tools of the trade for a cabinet maker.

Upon reading more about this museum when I returned home, it became apparent that I missed several of the displays, so this is just a sampling of what is there. I recommend this museum if you ever find yourself in Chefchaouen.

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