Holes in the Walls

By Sarah

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I found myself in a SUV driven by an American who was touring Morocco with his girlfriend from Chezh Republic. I assumed they were married and asked how long. “They aren’t married” my tour guide whispered “that’s why he laughed when you asked the question.”

We talked as we drove towards the Merinid tombs. “Moroccans sure like their walls, don’t they?” the man asked rhetorically. “They have walls around nothing. He told me” the American said in reference to our guide “that the holes in the walls are for birds.”


“Seems to me they would be for guns.” I responded.
“That’s what I said!” the American exclaimed excitedly.
“No, I told you they’re for birds.” the guide said with exasperation.
I replied that it seemed like a lot of work to do just for the birds. “And the guns would offer protection, which is the point of the exterior wall, right? Protection?”
“Well, you know Morocco. Nothing is done just as-is. Everything has to be beautiful.” the guide added as justification.

That almost seemed true. Morocco is visually ornate. But, Morocco is not ambitious. I can’t imagine a craftsman would complicate building procedures of an exterior wall just for the birds.

Bab Mansour bird house

Detail of Bab Mansour in Meknes.

Later in Meknes, I began to appreciate the holes as bird homes. I watched mosquitoes fly in spirals in a sun beam in the garden. They nipped my ankles as I ate my lunch. They left marks along my daughter’s arms which she scratched until bleeding. As I watched birds fly in and out of the holes in wall around Bab Mansour I wished them a hearty meal of flies and mosquitoes. I thought of the owl, bat, and bird houses that were installed in my Maryland neighborhood to attract predators to control the mosquito and rodent population. Perhaps the holes were just for the birds?

“The holes are left when they remove the scaffolding used to construct the wall” the owner of Riad Safir later explained to me.”

Well, the holes in the wall are practical, even if not used for firing guns. As a by-product of construction procedures, they do make very functional and welcome bird houses.

One Response to “Holes in the Walls”

  1. Walls That Don’t Surround: The Story of Two | Moroccan Design Says:

    […] doorways are all over the place in Morocco. “Moroccans sure like walls.” an American tourist commented as we drove through Fes to tour the Merinid tombs, “They have walls that don’t have anything […]

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    Sarah Tricha

    Project of an informal student of Morocan design. more