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Monday, 3 August 2015 12:00 AM

An Agadir near Tafraoute

Moroccan Architecture

Morocco has a rich architectural history and one of the great pleasures of a holiday in Morocco is staying in or visiting an historical building.

Morocco has a huge range of such properties including riads & dars, kasbahs & ksars, agadirs and foudouks – these short articles are written to help understand the differences between these.

We continue here with agadirs and foundouks, with a brief mention of Massreiya.

Agadir

Although Agadir is a place in south western Morocco, the general term “agadir” is a term that refers to historical fortified storage buildings, which are still common in south western Morocco (in the Anti Atlas region in particular) although largely abandoned.

The agadirs were created to provide a safe place for villagers to store valuables in case of attack. Such valuables included barley and other grains, almonds and other nuts, olive and argan oil, dried dates and figs, gems and even cattle. Agadirs were also normally designed to collect rainwater, a precious commodity in the region.

To offer the best protection, agadirs were built on high ledges, and many can be seen and visited today in and around the Anti Atlas region – the climate has helped preserve these and now offer a fascinating goal to a short walk away from the road, often up short steep tracks, but as they are not in use today they are often locked up.

The Agadir at Amtoudi (around 240 km drive south east of Agadir) is one of the oldest (the original structure is around 800 years old, but was added to over the centuries) and best preserved, and is open to visitors.  

Foundouk or Fondouk

A foundouk is a caravanserai or travellers’ inn, often placed in or near a medina and common along the old trade routes of the region. Although they were initially places for trading, foudouks soon offered accommodation for travelling merchants and their animals.

Most typically a foundouk was a building with a square or rectangular walled exterior, a central open courtyard and a single large doorway sufficient for pack animals (e.g. camels) to enter. In many ways the layout is similar to that of a dar, but foudouks are much larger – designed for pack animals and a large number of travellers.

Travellers could use the accommodation provided upstairs whilst leaving their animals downstairs, an area also used for trading.

Today foundouks can still be found in many medinas in Morocco being used by local artisans (rather than travelling merchants) and are generally in a state of disrepair, but the restaurant Le Foundouk in Marrakech Medina and the Nejjarine museum (museum of wooden arts and crafts) in Fez have been beautifully restored .

Massreiya

A massreiya ia a guest house, often very ornate, attached to a larger house. On the ground floor there would usually be a stable or shop, above which are storage rooms, and then the sleeping quarters on the top floors for male guests, who would not normally be allowed to sleep in the main house, or sometimes for the eldest son and his friends.