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A door? Some doors? Beyond the ornament itself, what is hidden behind it? Some life secrets or a dwelling left to ruins? What does it open onto? Mystery, suspense, curiosity or expectations are the numerous impressions in front of real or symbolic doors before they open.
Finding oneself in front of an unusual door, closed or half open, gives rise to a whole gamut of feelings and sensations.
Let me suggest a surprising ramble through the old town in Essaouira: enter the town by one of its big Babs, go and meet the doors of modest or luxurious dwellings, let yourself be carried away with your nose in the air and stop and admire decorations, sculptures, details of architecture, colours, and try and guess what could be behind them: a luxurious garden, a yard where washing is hanging to dry, a place of peace….
Not counting the Babs giving access to the old town: Bab Doukkala, Bab Marrakech, Bab Sbaa, Bab el Menzeh, Bab Laachour etc. that divide the Medina up into different quarters, gates have always been of major importance in towns. Sometimes they will reveal their secret if one is patient enough in deciphering the signs: is the name of the gate the name of a tribe? Does the gate indicate the direction to another town? Does the gate have a symbolic name?
The etymology of their names is an illustration of the cultural richness of Morocco; it also bears witness to the importance of certain handicrafts or to some administrations or to certain regions. Let this ramble be without a fixed itinerary in the Medina of Essaouira from door to door. Nose in the air stop and contemplate tiles or bits of them, recall the 18th century, look at Arabic or Jewish sculpted insignia depending on the area. Be they simple doors, restored or not, or majestic doors, they all shelter some secret: a cheerful yard with flowers, a living space with a fountain or a well (the near totality of ground floors do have one). Snatches of lives, private secrets: doors do tell the history of a town.
Doors have a rich symbolism both of threshold and of passageway; of spontaneously stopping in front of it then advancing into an enclosed space. They conjure up a dialectics between inside and outside while being treated casually as an object stuck to its hinges and allowing one to go in or out. The philosopher Bachelard described the door with both symbols as ‘a little god of threshold”.
In fascinating silence, eyes rest on the details that make up the charm of the place and of these streets, on door frames’ motifs made of fine stones always arranged in different ways. Ornaments that already tell a lot: architectural details, tiles, symbols, locks. Everywhere wooden doors hold secrets a few centuries old. Here a blue door perched on top of an angular staircase. There a multicolored door whose red paint seems to recall the ochre tint of the soil or the blood that runs through the veins of this so spell bounding country. Squeaking doors half opening or closing. Doors that hide, conceal or reveal. Witnesses of the life in the Medina, these wooden panels accept to be photographed or copied; their grooves and rough graining and their sometimes flaking paint due to age are also witnesses of a unique expertise, of the old crafts that were necessary to construct doors. Doors tell the story of the town, reveal traces of its past, of its inhabitants Arabs, Jews or European.
A door necessarily evokes the idea of passage or blockage, of opening or closing; it is the passageway between two states, between two worlds, real or abstract, between the known and the unknown, between light and dark.
Familiar objects in houses and more impressive in palaces or cultual places, doors have acquired throughout History a double patina of decorations and figments of imagination and have gained a great importance as passageways, interdictions or invitations to go through and then to enter the mystery.
So, do not hesitate! Get yourself lost in the alleys, in the dead ends of the town in order to discover these jewels, witnesses of the History of the City of all winds.