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Don't touch my wooden door!

The story of a venture that brought together teachers, state school pupils, parents, school heads and museum interpreters and curators with a single purpose: to save the wooden doors of Tangier's medina.

TANGIER – The journey ends in celebration. The children from Okba Bnou Nafiî, Abdellah Guennoun, Fatem Fihriya, Al Khansae and Hassan I schools have dressed up to round off a successful initiative that aims to raise awareness among the people of Tangier, both young and old, of the importance of their old wooden doors. The children and their parents have gathered to celebrate inside Tangier’s Kasbah museum, a magical, recently renovated building looking out over the ocean. Its interior is playing host to an exhibition of drawings done by the children to pass on this important message: ‘Don't touch our wooden doors!’ The Siwa & Tangier project, funded by the European Union under the Euromed Heritage IV programme, was set up by the Italian NGO, COSPE. The children, most of whom live in the old medina, attend state schools in Tangier, one of which is located in the centre of the medina.

Knocking on homeowners’ doors

“In each school, we involved 11 or 12 year olds from the first and second years of secondary school. The class was supervised by their teacher and each class attended eight workshops,” explains Ilaria Conti, the Programme Manager from COSPE. The first workshop was run by the Kasbah museum's curator to introduce the children to urban and domestic architecture. The second was dedicated to visits within the walls of the old medina, and to the houses of Abdellah Guennon and Riad Sultan in order to show the children what a traditional house is like. A visit outside the walls was on the agenda for the third workshop; the children explored the many facets of Moulay Hafid Palace, one of the best preserved houses in the kingdom, which also hosts the annual Tangier book fair. The fourth workshop focused on the doors, with a lesson given once again by the curator of the Kasbah museum. “For the fifth workshop, we gave the children disposable cameras and asked them to take photos of the old wooden doors in the medina. It was also an opportunity to introduce them to photography,” explains Ms. Conti.

The children came together at the sixth workshop to draw up questionnaires to give to residents of the medina with the aim of answering the question, “Why do some medina residents prefer to change their wooden doors?” “We created the questionnaires together, with the children and the teachers,” stresses Fatema, an educator at COSPE. At the seventh workshop the children acted as researchers and interviewed more than 200 residents of the medina. “The results were very positive. Those that have wooden doors are happy with them. Moreover, the residents of Tangier's medina are aware that the wooden doors are a part of the city's heritage and of the old medina's identity,” says Ilaria. The final workshop involved drawing and designing awareness messages about protecting the wooden doors. “The initiative was a success,” says Abdelhak Jibet, a teacher at Abdellah Guennoun school. “The children felt very strongly about it, especially after the visit to Moulay Hafid Palace. The photography workshop was also a highlight of the course. Speaking for myself, I didn't realise there were so many wooden doors in the medina. The children took more than 150 photos of wooden doors and we didn't even visit the whole of the medina.”

A child's view is magical and very protective

On this sunny afternoon at the Kasbah museum, a final vote will be taken to select the most popular messages and drawings to make postcards from them. The drawings brighten the room and, as you can judge for yourself, the messages are clear and succinct: ‘Matkich babi’ (Don't touch my door!), ‘The old wooden doors keep us secure’ and ‘The old wooden doors are a part of our life and heritage’. In addition to postcards, the project initiators are planning to launch an interactive educational game on the architectural heritage of Tangier's medina.

“The most interesting part of this project was the children's relationship with architecture. A child's view is magical and fun, but also very protective of the environment and heritage. We are very pleasantly surprised with the outcome,” Fatema says delightedly, and with good reason. The reaction of the residents was very positive as they felt the initiative concerned them. “This type of initiative should be replicated in other areas of heritage, such as old houses, zellige, wood and tiles, in order to heighten children’s awareness of their roots,” teacher Abdelhak Jibet justly concludes.

Text by: Hicham Houdaifa
Photos by: Karim Selmaoui
Courtesy of ENPI Info Centre

The children's experiences:

Malika, 11 years old: “This project taught us to take responsibility for ourselves and to earn the trust of the residents of the medina. We also learnt that the old wooden doors are a part of our cultural heritage.”

Karim, 13 years old: “Before, we used to pass these doors and not even look at them. We also knew that many people from Tangier were selling their wooden doors to foreigners and replacing them with ordinary iron doors. Now, if I saw this type of transaction, I would try to persuade the owner of the wooden door to keep it.”

Issa, 12 years old: “Thanks to this project, I am aware of the importance of the old wooden doors. They should not be replaced because they have great historical value.”

Hala, 13 years old: “Thanks to this programme, I have learnt that the old wooden doors are important and are an integral part of Tangier's medina. That's why they should not be changed.”

Project: Siwa & Tangier

  • To preserve and enhance the local cultural heritage in Morocco and Egypt within a sustainable development framework
  • To create effective management tools for sustainable safeguard of the tangible and intangible heritage in Tangier and of the Berber culture in Siwa

From: 01.03.09 To: 02.10.13
Budget: € 951.708,00
Countries involved: Egypt,Italy,Morocco

Project sheet

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