How Moroccan Traditions Work

By: Melanie Radzicki McManus

Home Sweet Home: Moroccan Architecture and Décor

Morocco has been influenced by many cultures throughout its history, resulting in architecture and décor that's cosmopolitan, yet a bit mysterious, dramatic, yet welcoming. Architecturally, you'll see lots of imposing arches and domes, thanks to Islamic influences, plus the use of courtyards and expansive gardens. Cities typically feature a medina, which is a walled section within which are houses and shops. And, of course, there are plenty of mosques.

Moroccan homes are interesting because they're often deceptive, featuring plain exteriors but ornately decorative interiors. This practice may be a way for Moroccans to separate the public from the private -- to reserve the intimacy of their homes for family and friends [source: Every Culture]. Most Moroccan homes have an interior courtyard (the front door often opens into this courtyard), while rooms sport arches, vaults and doorways covered with gauzy drapes. A blind, or indented, arch will be found somewhere within the home, a nod to the mihrabs, or semicircular niches, that are set in mosques to show the direction in which Mecca lies, and thus the direction Muslims should face when praying [source: The CGI Site].


The furniture Moroccans prefer is usually low, made of wood and accented with plush pillows. Lanterns are a popular lighting source and decorative accessory; most are handcrafted, not mass-produced, and can be finished with brilliant dyes and henna paintings. Moroccans also incorporate a lot of geometric patterns and intricate designs in their décor, paired with earth and desert tones, such as muted yellows and reds. Decorative ceramic tile, or zellige, is also quite popular, and can be found on pretty much any surface: floors, ceilings, walls, roofs and furniture. A popular Moroccan decorative technique dating back centuries is tedelakt, which involves using a colored limestone and black soap paste to create smooth, waxed surfaces on walls or floors.

Finally, fragrances are considered part of every Moroccan home's décor; most homes will combine floral scents with spices [source: The CGI Site]. These exotic aromas might not instantly transport you to Rick's Café in "Casablanca," but they're welcoming and quintessentially Moroccan, just the same.

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