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Portals to the Past

In the early 1930s, when the writer Paul Bowles first visited Tangier, Morocco, where he would end up living for more than a half-century, he described its medina, or old city, as “ancient, its passageways were full of people in bright outlandish costumes, and each street leading to the outskirts was bordered by walls of cane, prickly pear and high-growing geranium.”

Today Morocco’s medinas are much the same. The photographer Ambroise Tézenas visited medinas in the Moroccan cities of Tangier, Tetouan and Chefchaouen, which is known for its striking buildings painted bright blue. They “aren’t just tourist playgrounds like you have in downtown Paris,” Tézenas says. “What I was interested in is the fact that it’s not just nice and pretty. You still have people working in little shops. It’s like stepping back in time, and nothing has changed.” Julie Bosman


Number of Morocco’s nine Unesco World Heritage sites that are medinas: Four


When Tetouan was added to the World Heritage sites list: 1997


When Chefchaouen was founded: 15th century