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In Morocco Tangiers Residents Bring Colourful New Life To Old Town

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Mathew Oluwaseun
University of Ilorin (Unilorin)
Mechanical Engineering
500Level, Nigeria.
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Wall paintings, colourful facades and flowery alleyways are brightening up the centuries-old
Tangiers medina as residents bring new life to the neglected streets of the Moroccan port's old city.

Standing on a hill overlooking the port and the Strait of Gibraltar -- one of the world's most strategically vital waterways -- the old city of Tangiers has few green spaces.

But residents of 13 neighbourhoods have launched a campaign to spruce it up.
"The initiative came from the residents, without any intervention from political parties or associations, " said Rafih al-Kanfaoui, 33, of the old city's Ibn Battouta neighbourhood.

"The neighbourhood has taken on a beauty that nobody imagined. "

Along the old city's winding alleys, house fronts are decked out in different colours and pots of flowers sit outside doors and in windows.

The walls of Ibn Battouta -- named after the 14th century explorer who was the city's most famous son -- have been daubed green and purple, and a wheelchair ramp has been fitted.

"We all worked together, men and women, children, young people, old people, to make the neighbourhood beautiful ," said Soufyane Abdel-Mottalib, 30.

The operation was funded by the residents themselves and now four neighbourhoods in Tangiers have won awards from Morocco's Observatory for Environmental and Historical Monuments.

Proud of long history
It is one of several citizens' initiatives launched as Morocco hosts the COP22 climate talks in Marrakesh from November 7 to 18.

Mohammed Salmoun, a local civil society activist, said the project had changed the face of several marginalised parts of the city.

"This kind of initiative has shown its potential to make districts stand out both locally and nationally ," he said.

Inspired by pictures of the project on Facebook, inhabitants of other Moroccan cities including Casablanca have launched similar projects.
Tangiers residents are proud of their city's long history, particularly the story of Ibn Battouta, who left Tangiers in 1325 at the age of 21.

He crossed North Africa and travelled as far east as China. Defying distance, hardship and the Black Death, he later returned to his home city and wrote a book about his travels.

Because it overlooks one of the world's top maritime routes, Tangiers was the theatre of bitter rivalry between European powers in the 19th century.

Between 1923 and 1956, the region was a neutral international zone that attracted all types from spies and adventurers to authors like Tennessee Williams.

» » » Tangiers, like much of Morocco's north, was neglected under the late king Hassan II. The city dwindled slowly and turned to smuggling and hashish as many young, unemployed locals chose to migrate to Europe.

But the city has experienced a revival since King Mohammed VI launched an ambitious four-year $1 billion (700 million euro) redevelopment plan in September 2013.

The waterfront now shines with new buildings and the city centre has been transformed, with wide avenues and white painted sidewalks.


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