Traditional Islamic cities have generally gathered orientalized gazes and perspectives, picking up from misconceptions and stereotypes that evolved during the seconf half of the 19th century and were perpetuated by colonialism. More recent scholarship has shed light on the urban organization and composition of such tissues; most of them confined to old quarters or historical centres of thriving contemporary cities within the Arab-Muslim world. In fact, one of the most striking features has been the unveiling of layered urban assemblages where exterior agents have somehow launched or interrupted an apparent islamicized continuum. Primarily, this paper wishes to search for external political factors that have designed regularly geometrized patterns in medium-sized Arab towns. For that, two case studies from different geographies – Maghreb will be morphologically analysed through updated urban surveys.
In Azemmour’s medina (Morocco) it is still possible to track the thin European early-modern colonial stratum. However, this case shows how regularity patterns challenge Western concepts of geometrical design to embrace levels of rationality related to traditional Islamic urban forms, societal configurations and built environment. Urban morphology becomes a fundamental tool for articulating the history with me processes of sedimentation and evolution in order to read current urban prints and dynamics. Thus, the paper will also interpret alternative logics of rational urban display in Azemmour, linked to ways of living within the Islamic sphere.
Azemmour, Morocco, Muslim city interrupted
Azemmour is a small town on the mouth of river Oum er-Rbia in Morocco (Figure 8). Its present size doesn’t match the magnitude and importance of its past, especially as far as architectural and urban aspects are concerned. The city’s urban configuration can be summed up as an Arab-Muslim continuity interrupted by a thin layer, yet extremely relevant: the Portuguese occupation from 1513 to 1541
Azemmour suffered intense processes of urban growth and shortening for nearly one thousand years. Although its origins are unknown, it is certain that the site evolved to become a riverside urban assemblage in the Middle Ages. In its heyday, when the Almohad dynasty dominated northwestern Africa, the city occupied a much larger area than today’s precinct. Both aerial views and the survey of the remaining ruins help draw a large round perimeter encircling which, nowadays, is an extended portion of the extramural town, passing by Sidi Bou Chaib mausoleum, a memorial plac