The Door-knocker Tour

By Sarah


Hamsa door-knockerHand of the Virgin

The guide, a man of about 20, at the entrance to kasbah was lying. He told me the café didn’t open until 6pm. It is in fact open from sunrise to sunset. But, I had a few hours to kill while waiting to meet with some friends and little else to do for a distraction as most shops were closed for lunch. I decided to follow him, interested in what he would show, tell, and expect from us at the end. He showed me his national identity card in lieu of a guide license. It showed was that he was a resident of Oudaya.

Kasbah Oudaya

Within a few steps, I felt like I was in a neighborhood in Chefchouen, but in place of cool mountain air was a breeze from the ocean. Oudaya lacks the sophisticated boutiques of its Northern blue-and-white cousin. Here were only residential markets and an orange juice stand. Boys in half wet suits carried battered surf boards through the narrow streets, half of which was shaded from midday sun by the blue and white walls surrounding it. The walls were pieced by ornate doorways that hinted at the architecture and ambiance hidden within.

door in Oudaya
The guide tells me that the painted door style is Andalusian, not Berber.

We tried to stay on the shady side of the street. All we could see were doorways, walls, and a view of the ocean and river that separates Rabat and Sale.

The guide discussed the symbolism of the wall colors and the various origins of the doorknocker styles. The Hand of Fatima (a feminine hand wearing a ring), Hamsa (stylized hand with two thumbs, Jewish origin), Hand of the Virgin (no ring, Portuguese), and scissors. The scissors, like the hand doorknockers, are talismans used to ward of the evil eye or bad luck. The scissors, also and more intuitively, signify a barber shop. One bizarre door was decorated with a variety of brass objects, including Roman chariots. It was the door of an apothecary of Egyptian origin.


Door of an Egyptian apothocary in Oudaya.

I ask and the guide tells me the blue color used on the medina walls represents the ocean and also serves as a mosquito repellant because “mosquitos only like yellow”. He tells me that the white paint on the outside of the buildings between the street and the curb symbolize both Islamic religion (white, he says, is for the Prophet) as well as pathways that have an exit. He shows me places where the same section where building meets curb is painted light blue, explaining that this color marks Andalusian homes and paths with no exit.

street
The white paint on the curb indicates this path
should have an exit.

I have never heard Andalusian used as a race. Certainly when the Moors were forced out of Spain, many Jews and Muslims settled in Morocco in towns like Chefchaouen and Rabat. I wonder if Andalusian means Jewish in this case. I know the guide, in the Moroccan tradition, will answer any question I may ask just. I know in advance that his answer won’t satisfy me.

He points to the gate to the Oudaya and says that the shell detail was a symbol of victory in the Almohad dynasty.

We go by Dar Baraka on our way to an open plaza that overlooks the Sale and the Bou Regreg river. There is sign with a gold cat on it. He explains that the cat represents luck and the gold represents wealth.

From there it is short walk to the café and gardens, which are, at 3pm, miraculously open.

The guide wants 170 dirhams for this short tour, an unreasonable amount of money. I offer him a bit more than he deserved because my daughter dropped a bag, the contents of which amount to close to his asking price, and he quickly back tracked and retrieved it for us.

Cafe
Enjoying tea with my travelling companion. The charming open ledge isn’t very kid-friendly, but the gardens are great for toddlers.

Overall, the tour was a rip-off that was worth the time and money. If you want to go into Oudaya, don’t bother with a guide. It is a small, lovely, and relatively friendly, although the guide did shoo away one persistent beggar boy during our tour. Still, you don’t need to spend any dirhams to see it unless, like me, you are interested in what the locals have to say – historically accurate or not- about symbolism and history.

7 Responses to “The Door-knocker Tour”

  1. N Says:

    It’s sad how you act like the people that want some money are vermin. Then you decide to give the guide “more than he was worth” because your little daughter has more things of value in her little purse than this boy could have with two month’s labor.

    Do you ever buy a dinner for $20? How about $40, $60?

    Sure he’s a guide and may score 170 dirhams here and there from tourists like you who don’t know the area as well but is that so bad? You act like it is. Plus you learned all these things that you just posted on your website for the whole world to see.

    Oh and good thing he “shooed” the poor little beggar off. Wouldn’t want poverty getting too close.

    Wow and your website is devoted to Moroccan Design, how sad. People like you shouldn’t be in Morocco much less deserving of money of your own. Just like those people who love Native American art but can’t stand Native Americans it seems you are another who just iconizes entire cultures and cherry picks whatever you can while leaving not a shell of goodness behind.

    Buy the ticket, take the ride, just don’t complain about it.

  2. MoroccanDesign.com Says:

    Wow. You sound like a really angry person.

    I didn’t say I offered the guide “more than he was worth” I said I offered him “more than he deserved” and there is a huge difference in those statements. I certainly never called anyone “vermin.”

    The guide shouldn’t have lied about the cafe being closed in order to get business. He should get a license like the guides in Fes if he wants to make money giving tours. I paid less for a full-day tour of the medina in Fes than he wanted for an hour tour of Oudaya.

    Don’t assume that everyone outside of Morocco has an easy financial situation or that you know anything about my personal relationship to Morocco or Moroccans. I’m happy to have someone disagree with my perspective, but to attack me with the same type of prejudices you accuse me of deflates the impact of your views.

    Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, which I also posted for the “whole world to see.”

  3. Jessica Says:

    Amazing! The above post is totally uncalled for and the person was making an assumption on what was said. Obviously, she adores all things Moroccan including Moroccan people (including her Moroccan husband and his family). Her views and comments are completely appropriate and much appreciated. As a designer that has studied much about Islamic and Moroccan design, her blog is a pleasure to read and accurate. Please try to know peoples intentions are good as I will think that yours are too.
    And thank you for this beautiful blog!

  4. MoroccanDesign.com Says:

    Thank you, Jessica, for such positive feedback! It really means a lot to me.

  5. karen Says:

    Im searching for a door knocker – Hand of Fatima – do you have any ideas?

  6. Sarah Says:

    I have a doorknocker like the one at http://www.berbertrading.com/pd_hand_of.cfm. They call it hand of fatima, but I think of it more as a hamsa.

    I’ve never bought from Berber Trading company before, but they sell lots of moroccan items.

    I also found a hand of Fatima door knocker online at http://www.palmyradesign.com/pages/antiques2.html.

    In either case, you need to contact the website for purchasing information.

    Good luck!

  7. Khadijah Chadly Says:

    Hand of fatima and hamza are the same thing

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