Moroccan architecture

Moroccan architecture dates from 110 BCE with the massive pisé (mud brick) buildings. The architecture has been influenced by Islamization during the Idrisid dynasty, Moorish exiles from Spain, and also by France who occupied Morocco in 1912.

Morocco is in Northern-Africa bordering the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The country’s diverse geography and the land’s long history marked by successive waves of settlers and military encroachments are all reflected in Morocco’s architecture.

Morocco’s first independent state called the Berber kingdom of Mauretania was ruled by the Berbers clan. It was first documented during 110 BC. During the time of the Berbers, the country has been through several sieges by a number of invaders. Nevertheless, the Berbers ritual and beliefs still remained and became the country’s cultural heritage including its antique architecture. The Berbers are known for their use of earth or mud brick called pisé (French). Many of the massive pisé buildings had defensive functions as main trading posts and ports or guard walls against pirates and rivals. This ancient building method prevails in all sizes of buildings. Since pisé is a water- permeable material, the foundation is required to be rebuilt regularly; however, the repeating use of forms, materials and patterns resulted as Morocco’s distinctive architecture. Moreover, Moroccan traditional architecture also gained influences from neighboring countries and intruders.

The architecture was influenced by the Almoravids and the Almohads between 1056 and 1269 AD. Andalusian architecture, with an oriental influence. The Sufis and the Sufis who were with the Almoravids and the Almohads in Morocco had their views on the extravagance and luxury in the building, which led to moderation in the building, after it had reached a great deal of extravagance and luxury in the decoration, so the new art earned a distinctive beauty, despite the simplicity of the most important characteristic of this architecture : * The rows of brackets bearing the vertical roof, as in the Mosque of Uqba ibn Nafi in Kairouan, and in the Great Mosque of Cordoba .

The existence of the metaphor between the main door of the tribal and the mihrab, with the brackets of the roof of the rest of the arches and decorated and diversity and the ceiling is higher than the rest of the tribal ceilings.
The presence of the dome above the mihrab, which consists of arches interspersed with decorative frescoes or wooden beams from inside, pyramid shaped, covering the outer surface of the tile.
The arches are rounded, tapered or dotted horseshoes, often with many lobes, each season.
The use of ceramic mosaics in decoration in the form of paintings in the facades of buildings or minarets, while the decoration continued with the inscription on the plaster (engraved Hudeidah), and has reached the frescoes highest level in the architecture of the Almoravid.
The decorative themes were based on the geometric shapes, the phylogeny and the biblical ribbons, which were adopted with great suspicion on the kufic line . The third line was also used and used for the first time in the Tlemcen Mosque, in addition to the Moroccan and Andalusian lines.


Morocco was not originally an Islamic country; the conversion of the Berber tribes in Morocco to Islam by Idris I of Morocco greatly influenced the overall architectural style of the country. The elegance of Islamic features is blended in and adapted into buildings and interior designs such as the use of tiling, fountains, geometric design and floral motifs. Which could be seen in mosques, palaces, plazas as well as homes. The materials chosen for the interiors of Moroccan classical architecture, are due in part to the necessity of cooling in the arid land climate of Morocco.

Tiles – Zellige tiling, often wrongly labelled “mosaic”, is used to decorate the surfaces of buildings and objects, principally interior walls, floors, and fountains. Modern use of zellige has extended the use to furniture and other interiors.
Fountains – Before the conversion, water was already an important part of Moroccan culture; however, Islam made water much more important functionally because of the ritual ablution before prayer. Thus, fountains, also representing paradise, could be found everywhere in order to serve everyone.
Mosques – Following the introduction of Islam, mosques were built in Morocco with their distinct architectural features.
Geometric Design and Floral Motifs Arabesque – Based on Islamic beliefs, avoiding the use of human or animal images is preferable resulting in the spread of floral motifs (arabesques) and geometric patterns. The motifs in Moroccan architectural decor are chiefly carved into stone, plaster and wood.

Moorish (Spain 711-1492)
Modern day Spain was a Moorish domain from the early 8th century to the late 15th century and was known as Al-Andalus 711 AD to 1492 AD. During the 11th century the berber dynasty of the Almohad Caliphate, ruled Morocco and the southern part of modern-day Spain the most famous of their remaining buildings are the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh, the Giralda of Seville, Spain and the Hassan Tower, in Rabat, Morocco. The Almoravid dynasty ruled Morocco and the southern half of Spain through the 12th century. The Marinid dynasty from the 13th through the 15th century, rule both Moroccan and Southern Spain until the Reconquista with the fall of Granada in 1492, effectively ending the Moorish era in Iberia. Moorish architecture therefore evolved into a distinct form. The elements of which are as follows

Arches – Arches are common feature in Morocco, which can be divided into two types. The first arch is the horseshoe which is clover shaped. The second is cusped like a rounded keyhole. These are called Moorish arches.
Tiling – Overlapping roof tiling became popular after the influence of Spain; the tiles are mostly hand glazed.
Andalusian gardens – The landscape of the Alhambra garden in Granada is the greatest inspiration for Moroccan public and private gardens.

France occupied Morocco in 1912. Later, as a result of the unorganized growth of real estate in the late 1800s to early 1900s, the French protector declared regulations for building standards which directly affected the architecture at that time, as follows:

Buildings could not be higher than four stories.
Land use regulation required twenty percent of a planned area to be courtyards or gardens.
Balconies must not overlook neighboring residences.
Roofs of all buildings should be flat.
The building regulations maintained the country’s preexisting architectural features and balanced the rapid urbanization.

Modern Moroccan Architecture
The Mosque of Hassan II in Casablanca is the most modern Islamic architecture, in addition to its size, which exceeds the size of any similar mosque, as this mosque was built on a snorkel of land that stretched under it specifically to challenge the sea, which dominates the city of Casablanca , Has become proud of the finest Islamic establishment .

The Moroccan mosques built by the Almoravids and the Monotheists of Morocco , who contributed to the building of the glory of Islamic architecture , are still remembered in the silos of the mosques of Seville in Andalusia and the books in Marrakech and Hassane in Rabat . The new silo was the fourth in the history of the Moroccan oval, although it was higher than its size and height. It has an area of 625 m 2 and an altitude of 200 m.

This architectural edifice extends over a vast area of nine hectares, a mosque and a school on one side, a library and a museum on the other, within a cohesive architectural unit, showing all the architectural and decorative features of Morocco that still flourish to this day. Moroccan art is still widespread and popular in Morocco thanks to skilled craftsmen who practice decoration with porcelain, in geometric patterns and inscriptions, and with stucco, wooden and marble decoration. This edifice accommodates their traditional creations with contemporary additions, especially in formulas and techniques. This edifice is not a literal translation of the ancient architecture but it largely preserved the traditions of Moroccan architecture and the arts. It was an expression of the renaissance of the arts and their defiance of Western European architectural patterns that spread in Casablanca due to its commercial and tourist character. It may not be enough space to talk about the new technologies that have been added to it, especially the use of laser to indicate the Qibla , and the establishment of the foundations of anti-tremors and waves, and erosion by water, and the roof of the mosque is open, as the masterpieces done by thousands of Moroccan teachers, This mosque.

Types of house

The Riad also known as Dar is the Moroccan traditional house, which normally has two or more storeys around a courtyard.

The Riad is the Moroccan traditional house, normally with two or more storeys around an Andalusian-style courtyard that contained a fountain. Riads were the stately city homes of the wealthiest citizens such as merchants and courtiers.

The riads were inward focused, which allowed for family privacy and protection from the weather in Morocco. This inward focus was expressed with a centrally placed interior garden or courtyard, and the lack of large windows on the exterior walls of clay or mud brick. This design principle found support in Islamic notions of privacy, and hijab for women. Entrance to these houses encourages reflection because all of the rooms open into the central atrium space. In the central garden of traditional riads there are often four orange or lemon trees and often a fountain. The walls of the riads are adorned with tadelakt plaster and zellige tiles, usually with Arabic calligraphy of quotes from the Quran.

The style of these riads has changed over the years, but the basic form is still used in designs today. Recently there has been a surge in interest in this kind of house with a wave of renovation in towns such as Marrakech and Essaouira, where many of these often-crumbling buildings have been restored to their former glory as hotels or restaurants. Many of the crumbling or ruined properties in Marrakech have been bought by foreigners. This foreign interest has brought new challenges but the investment has helped with the restoration of the UNESCO site and has helped revive many of the handcrafts and artisan trades that were gradually being lost before this trend. Many of the restored riads in the districts of Mouassine and Lakssour offer the finest examples of restoration as historically these areas contained many of the grand palaces from Marrakech’s Saadian period.

Villas are larger stand-alone housing in the urbanized area which do not need to follow traditional architectural style.

Architectural Features
Arches, most often the horseshoe arch are used in almost every aspect of Moroccan housing whether it is doors, entrances, windows or niches.

Domes are often integrated with altars or commemoratory monuments as well as modern villas.

The interior doors of villas are usually oversized and decorative. In contrast, very small doors are used in dars. Doors are often adorned with delicate metal work, carving or color.

In contrast with doors, windows in Moroccan architecture are often unremarkable. They are normally arched glass panes with fewer adornments compared to doors.

Mashrabiya is an Islamic dowel work, made by carving large wood partitions in elaborate geometric patterns. Its purpose is to conceal the women from the visitor’s prying eyes according to Islamic tradition.

The fountain is a conspicuous feature in every house, often made of marble or cement. It is built in the heart of the courtyard, living room or guest room.

Elements of Classic Moroccan Interiors

Woodwork can be found in both urbanized and more traditional areas of Morocco. The woodwork serves as the main finishing. This intricate woodwork can be found on various surfaces of buildings especially the interiors, such as wall, ceiling window, gallery and balcony. The wood itself does not need to be finished or painted after the long process of delicate carving.

The plaster used for sculpting is called “gabs” or “jybs” in Moroccan, with the gypsum extracted abundantly from quarries in Safi, Asni, Meknès and Ouazzane. Tadelakt, qadad, and non-waterproof plasters are used. They may be polished smooth or elaborately carved into yeseria.

Copper, bronze, iron and brass are materials commonly used for studs, door knobs, window frames and door frames as well as room partitions.

A wide variety of ceramics is produced in Morocco. The painted and glazed ceramics are used for architectural work and tableware. Some are commonly used as roof tiling and decorative zellige tilework. The process of tiling, arranging and cutting them requires expertise in order to deliver a detailed piece of work.

Color Palettes
Moroccan is known for their vivid and colorful design. However the diversity of colors that are included in the design all holds different connotations.

Color Color Range Symbolism Usage
Blue Greenish Turquoise, Fresh Fez Blue, Electric Majorelle Blue, Dark and Light Indigos Sky, Heaven, Water, Planet Mercury. Muslims believed the color could protect them from evil’s eyes, also believe that it can enhance one medical and cosmetic condition. Tiling, Floor, Textiles, Door and window frames, Garden furniture
White White, Ivory, Beige Cleanness, Good luck, Beauty, Femininity. Based on Muslim belief these colors connote moral qualities. Commonly found in textiles using different materials. As a complement to other Moroccan patterns that use darker colors.
Red Salmon, Rosy Pink, Fuchsia, Apple Red, Brick Red, Carmine, Violet, Bordeaux Female, Sexuality, Fertility, Childbirth which relates to happy marriage. Some said it also represent the planet Mars. Walls, Roof tiles, Carpets, Pottery
Black Black, Soft Black, Smoke, Brown Though the scheme is popularly used, however it holds a negative connotation. Believe that these colors are likely to bring bad luck and grief. Mosaic, Carpets, Textiles. However it is use frequently in various items since it is a base color in their design.
Green Bottle Green, Blue Green, Grass Green The color relates with the Muslim interpretation of heaven presumably because it is in between the reddish hell and the blue heaven based on their belief. Pottery, Tiling, Ceiling Painting, Furniture
Yellow Gold, Lemon Yellow, Dark Yellow, Orange Yellow, Orange Gold, Wealth, Sun. Believed that these colors would protect them from evil. Textiles and embroidery, Tiling, Painted decoration on furniture, Leather products, Carpets

Source From Wikipedia