Tetouan, often written Tetuán, is a Moroccan city located in north-central Morocco. There are 7 miles (11 kilometers) between it and the Mediterranean Sea, which is along the Martil River (Wadi Martil).
The origin of the word comes from the Berber term “Titawin” which stands for eyes.
The settlement is built on a rocky plateau that separates it from the southern face of Mount Dersa, which it overlooks. The ancient Roman village of Tamuda was located just above the present-day city of Rome. Tetouan was first occupied by the Idrisid dynasty in the 9th century, and it was fortified by the Marinid dynasty in the 14th century when the city was renamed Tetouan.
In addition to being a commercial center, Tétouan has a thriving economy centered on handicrafts and the light industry. As a cultural center, it has a music school, multiple craft schools, national museums of archaeology and traditional arts, as well as an archival library and an archive. It is linked to the cities of Tangier (Tanger), Al-Hocema, and Ouazzane by the road network. Agricultural products grown in the surrounding region include cereals (mainly wheat), citrus fruits (particularly oranges), tea, as well as sheep, goats, cattle, as well as cork, and olive trees. Because of its close proximity to Mediterranean beaches, the city is a favorite tourist destination for many Moroccans, particularly in the summer. The population was 380,787 in 2014.
Things to do and see in Tetouan:
1. Explore the old Madina:
It is true that Tetouan’s Medina is one of the smallest in Morocco, but it is also one of the most complete in the country. The Spanish-influenced medina, which has remained mostly unchanged since the 17th century with the exception of a few modern repairs, has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moroccan history may be experienced first-hand by wandering around the country’s numerous ethnic areas, which include Andalusian, Berber, and Jewish communities.
The medina is the ancient center of Tetouan, and it is fortified by five kilometers of rampart walls with crenellations and seven spectacular gateways. The city was destroyed by the Spanish in 1400, and it was afterward rebuilt by the Islamic Moors who had fled there following the 15th-century Reconquista, according to legend. Their architectural impact may be observed in the white Andalusian homes, which have remained almost unchanged since the 17th century, as well as in the surrounding landscape. Artists and craftspeople practice their traditional skills in souks that have been properly designated, while mosques, kasbahs, and the Royal Palace on Hassan II Square conjure the grandeur of a bygone period.
2. The Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum, located in the city center, exhibits objects unearthed in ancient towns around Northern Morocco. This contains Tamuda, a Roman city located just outside of Tetouan. Punic coins, bronze tools, 1st-century figures, and Libyan-Berber stone inscriptions are among the items in the collection, which are divided into prehistoric and pre-Islamic periods. Highlights include a Roman mosaic of the Three Graces and a Sumerian figure unearthed near the modern-day city of Asilah. Spend some time in the museum garden, where you can discover mosaics from Lixus, a Roman city, amid Islamic wares and funeral stones.
Before Tetouan’s establishment in the 15th century, two cities grew and collapsed on the city’s grounds. The Archaeological Museum is committed to uncovering the history of ancient Tetouan, displaying stunning artifacts that tell travelers about the city’s past. Antique coins, ceramics, mosaics, and antique inscriptions are just a few of the objects you’ll find at this museum. Open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Monday.
3. The church of Iglesia de Bacturia
Today, Tetouan’s Spanish influence can still be felt strongly, and nowhere is this more evident than at its lone surviving church, the Iglesia de Bacturia.
The Roman Catholic Iglesia de Bacturia is Tetouan’s solitary church, a rarity in a nation known for mosques. The church, which was erected in 1917, is still in use today. In fact, the city is one of the few in Morocco where you can hear church bells ringing out the call to prayer alongside the muezzin’s summons. Regular services are still held there. You have the option of attending daily mass at 7:00 p.m. or 11:00 a.m. every Sunday.
4. Pay a visit to the artisan center, Dar Sanaa
Tetouan is known for its creative legacy, and no place exemplifies this better than Dar Sanaa, the city’s ancient arts and crafts school. The structure, which is near the medina’s eastern entrance, Bab el-Okla, is a superb example of neo-Arabic architecture. Inside, a number of studios allow visitors to see local artists working on techniques that have been refined overages. Wood painting, needlework, marquetry, and the production of zellij mosaics are among them. If the masters’ work inspires you, you may buy their works here or at the Medina’s souks.
This artisan center, located just outside Bab el-Okla in a gorgeous Hispano-Moorish structure, was founded in 1919 by famed Italian painter Mariano Bertuchi with the goal of conserving Tetouan’s Hispano-Moorish art history. Dar Sanaa now offers a variety of traditional Moroccan arts classes. You may learn about Tetouan’s local art culture by visiting the magnificent structure with its studios and attractive courtyard. Saturday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
5. Museum of Modern Art
Tetouan is well-known for having a vibrant creative community, thus it is only fitting that one of Morocco’s two contemporary art museums is situated in this city. The Tetouan Museum of Modern Art is housed in a beautiful old railway station built in the style of Andalusian architecture. It features a permanent collection of modern Moroccan art as well as a range of temporary exhibits.
It is important to note, however, that the city’s ingenuity is not limited to the arts and crafts of the past. Tetouan is also home to one of only two contemporary art museums in Morocco, the other of which is situated in the capital city of Rabat, which is also located in the city of Tetouan. The museum, which is housed in a historic train station that formerly served as a rail connection between Spain’s enclave of Ceuta and the rest of the world, is a sight to see in and of itself. Inside the castle-like walls, you’ll discover five exhibition halls presenting a permanent collection of the greatest contemporary art and sculpture from all across Morocco, including works by international artists. Visiting exhibits are also held in the museum on a regular basis, and it is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays.
6. Ethnography Museum:
When you visit Morocco, one of the best ways to learn about the country’s history and customs is to have a look at the most valuable collections of the country’s old villages. It is possible to see a wide variety of artifacts in the many display rooms of this great museum, ranging from hand-embroidered pillows to intricately adorned baskets, weaponry, crafts, and traditional wedding accessories, among other things.
The Ethnographic Museum, which is located adjacent to Dar Sanaa and is situated in the castle of Sultan Moulay Abderrahman, was built in the nineteenth century. Dedicated to the history and culture of Tetouan and displaying a wonderful collection of costumes, jewelry, needlework, instruments, weaponry, and furniture in typical Tetouani chambers, the museum is a must-see for everyone visiting the city. In the kitchen, you may enjoy traditional local food, and the Trousseau Room is a particular highlight. Throughout the museum, the opulent Tetouani wedding process is portrayed via a wonderful collection of marriage chests and wedding linens, as well as ceremonial apparel.
7. Explore the coast
In only 20 minutes, you may be at the seaside, where you can explore the many fishing towns, ports, and beach resorts that the area has to offer. Smir Laguna, which is close by, serves as a stopover for thousands of migrating birds. Tamuda Bay is a luxury development with five-star hotels, wellness facilities, and golden beaches. M’diq beach resort is a popular day-trip destination for locals and tourists alike, thanks to its seaside promenade and outstanding seafood eateries. The Royal Golf Club, which has 18 holes, is located in Cabo Negro. Instead, thrill-seekers may engage in activities like jet-skiing, windsurfing, deep-sea fishing, and scuba diving, while history lovers will appreciate Martil, the port of Tetouan, which served as a pirate’s hideout in the past.
8. Attend an Annual Festival
An incredible number of art and music events are held in Tetouan each year, and many of them are inspired by the city’s Andalusian background. The Women’s Voice Festival, which honors the contributions of Moroccan women to the Arabic music scene, and the International Lute Festival, which is a three-day exhibition of the world’s top lute artists, are two of the city’s most important annual events. Tetouan has also been the host city for the International Festival of Comic Strips since 2004. The Mediterranean Film Festival of Tetouan is, without a doubt, the most well-known of the festivals.
9. Hike the Rif mountains
The adjacent Rif Mountains provide chances for all types of daring outdoor activity, including hiking, mountain biking, caving, and canyoning. Talassemtane National Park starts just outside Chefchaouen and encompasses a panorama of towering peaks and tumbling canyons. The park’s distinctive Moroccan fir and black pine environment support 35 animal species, including the endangered Barbary macaque. Birders should keep a lookout for the beautiful golden eagle, frequently spotted riding the thermals over the park. Talassemtane is a 2.5-hour journey from Tetouan, giving it the perfect spot for an overnight camping excursion.
10. Travel to Chefchaouen for a day trip
Tetouan is also an excellent starting point for seeing other attractions in northern Morocco, such as the highland village of Chefchaouen. With its sky-blue houses and picturesque cobbled medina, Chefchaouen is a laid-back artists’ enclave endowed with breathtaking mountain vistas and a quaint cobbled medina. It, like Tetouan, served as a haven for Muslim and Jewish immigrants fleeing the Spanish Reconquista during the 15th century, and many of the city’s most famous monuments can be traced back to this period. Preserve your memories of the kasbah, the Grande Mosquée, and the medina ramparts before indulging in local food or shopping for handcrafted items in the city’s souks.