by Sarah Corbett

Tetouan is a town in Northern Morocco with Strong Historical links to Grenada.

In 1492 the Nasrid dynasty surrendered their rule of the Emirate of Granada. The surrender led to the mass arrival in Tetouan of those fleeing Spain. Moors who were of diverse religious and ethnic groups arrived in great numbers following an agreement between Abu el Hassan Al Mandari and Rachid Ibn Aliof Chaouen.

The Andalusian influences are evident in the architecture, music, cuisine, clothing, jewels and embroideries.

Many of the embroideries of Tetouan were influenced by Turkish designs which had been introduced to southern Europe by Balkan women living there in the 17th century, however int he embroideries of Tetouan the flowers and plants represented are of Persian and Syrian origin rather than Turkish. Furthermore Algerians fleeing the French invasion in 1830 settled in Tetouan bringing with them a tradition of, and passion for this Turkish style of embroidery.

A particularly interesting example of this type of work is the Tensifa. This opulent textile was used to cover the mirrors in the bedroom of newly weds for 40 days. This custom was intended to protect the couple , but in particular the bride from the evil eye, which may be a danger due to the envious looks of others.

Early examples of Tensifa are worked on a ground of fine linen, occasional examples are worked on muslin which was imported from Mosul. Later pieces were embroidered in less delicate shades onto silks and satins. The lower density and finesse of the embroidery in the later examples is discernible.

Embroideries of North Africa by Caroline Stone
Florilege de la broiderie Marocaine by Rachida Alaoui

More articles