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On my trip winter break, I have spent around 3.5 hours flight from Manchester, the UK to Marrakech, Morocco. I plan to visit five beautiful cities in Morocco: Marrakech, Fez, Chefchaouen, Tangier, and Casablanca. During land travel, I spent a night camping in the Sahara desert, but I don’t want to tell this fantastic experience right now. Within a few days, my curiosity was address in question: Why Morocco looks like Arab countries, even though it located in North Africa?

Morocco has a long history since Arab conquest at around the 7th century, so that it might be a strong argument why Arabic culture is influencing in this country.

Graphic : Location country of Morocco, source by

Morocco landscape is dominated by rock mountainous, with slopes that gradually transition into plateaus and valleys. The highest point of Morocco is Jebel Toubkal (4,165 m) at the Atlas mountain. It is also a similar characteristic with Arabic landscape in the middle east region. According to this circumstance, it makes Morocco has some uniqueness of urban morphology. One of predominate is about the density in around 83/km2; it seen in the housing area is that it is so crowded.

Photo : Atlas Mountain, Morocco,  A. Isrefidianto 2019
Photo : Morroco landscape around Aoufous, A. Isrefidianto 2019

At this vacation, I have been stayed in several Airbnbs, that mostly are private property and manage by personal. This accommodation service is prevalent in this country, and the tourist is interested in staying there it is because of affordable price, commonly located in the old city that bit slump, near the main tourist attractions and feels like a native. The last one that I mentioned is the most valuable experience. It is far from five-stars hotel, but it’s worth than that, trust me! Besides, the architectural property details are wonderful and specific with popular Islamic colour and geometry pattern. The detailing came from a legacy of acculturation between Arabic and African art culture. At this point, honestly, is my reason why I’m travelling to Morocco to see it and touching directly.

Photo : Architecture details in Moroccan style, taken in Al Quaraouiyine Mosque, A. Isrefidianto 2019
Photo : Private property as Airbnb home stay where I stayed during in Fez, A. Isrefidianto 2019

Their natural interaction happens in narrow alleys that created by un-organized blocks housing. However, local people who are living in density are commonly in hereditary, but recently it is interesting for tourist and become part of tourism attraction.

Photo : Density in old city at Fez, A. Isrefidianto 2019
Photo : Typical narrow alley in Morocco old city housing complex, A. Isrefidianto 2019

In every city that I have visited, it has different experiences in identity and role. In the 16th century, Marrakech is the capital city before it was moving to Rabat. Recently, Marrakech becomes the fourth largest city in Morocco, as tourism destination because of much historical building still exists, trading, and also a business city.

Photo : Landmark Koutobia Mosque in Marakech, A. Isrefidianto 2019
Photo : Marakech city center, A. Isrefidianto 2019
Photo : Green energy pilot project of solar panel tree inKoutobia Mosque Plaza, A. Isrefidianto 2019

Staying in local society, I have been felt a natural life there, from how and what they eat every day, also how they bargaining in the traditional market to buy some goods. Everything is natural activity scenario. They are speaking in French, Spain, and Arabic, just some of them can speak in English.

Photo : Daily social interaction in traditional market, A. Isrefidianto 2019

The traditional market, they called souk, is the most exciting place to visit. I tough the traditional market only sells souvenir for tourist, yet they are also providing daily supplies for local people. In particular relics, it is easy to recognize the specific Morocco gifts. There are many kinds of goods likes carpet, cup, plate, tabletop, painting, cloth, beanie, and so on. The souvenir has identic geometric art pattern and colourful, part of the unity in architecture decoration details that I have mentioned before. It is the interesting point that those specific art patterns will have founded in entire building in Morocco, and it makes Morocco have a particular identity that different than other countries, even though with Middle East country. Morocco has a Moroccan style it is self.

Photo : The traditional market in Marakech, A. Isrefidianto 2019
Photo :Souvenir market in Fez, A. Isrefidianto 2019

Secondly, it is the city of Fez. This city is home to leathercraft, such as jacket, bag, belt, wallet, and so on. It has an interesting attraction that we can be visiting and watching the traditional leather colouring process. Unfortunately, I had scammed by local people around 5 euro to take me there. According to this main city feature, the provincial government taking seriously to improve this area.

Photo : Tanneries complex in Fez-Medina Morocco, A. Isrefidianto 2019

Place Lalla Yeddouna is one of project revitalization in Fez to support local craftsmanship to tourism and business economy, and also part of urban environment improvement according to the waste of leather production disposal. The proposal is an action implementation from the result of competition in 2015.

Photo : Urban improvement by Mossessian Architect in Fez,  A. Isrefidianto 2019
Photo : Building unit interior of urban improvement, A. Isrefidianto 2019

Next is a unique city and my favourite one, Chefchaouen. This city is well known as the blue city because all the buildings painted in blue colour. Why this city become blue, it is because there is a history in around 1930, the Jewish community has lived here, and it is their belief of sky and peaceful. In the other hand, blue is identic as water, insect especially mosquito does not like it. Overall, the blue colour is the primary city identity that it is proven could successfully promote the tourism sector, which is it is the majority of the city’s revenue.

Photo : Blue village Chefchaouen, A. Isrefidianto 2019

My last destination city is Tangier. It is the closest city to Spain, that only separate by Gibraltar strait. Tangier is a port city with beautiful corniche that is citizen favourite open space to interaction during waiting sunset. My flight back to the UK will be taking off from Marrakech, so I have to go back to the first city using Hi-speed bullet train called “Bouraq” via Casablanca, and I have to change the train to Marrakech.

Photo : Corniche in Tangier, A. Isrefidianto 2019
Photo :Tangier waterfront development area, A. Isrefidianto 2019

In conclusion, Morocco has a strong identity that can provide advantages to increase urban competitiveness in many ways. In my experience, it works for tourism promotion; they are real as seen in any photos (including my photos). Their identity is a real valuable legacy from the past, cannot be copied, and sustainable. However, Morocco is part of the world heritage destination. Yet, Morocco still has to improve its citizen educational sector that it might be affected prejudice to the visitor, even it is tourist or investor because of under level of their attitude.

Photo : Al-Boraq bullet train, source by:
Photo : Menara Airport in Marakech city, A. Isrefidianto 2019

Refrence: (2020). [online] available at: [accessed on 1 December 2020]. (2020). [online] available at: [accessed on 1 December 2020]. (2020). [online] available at: [accessed on 1 December 2020].

Dalzel, Rebecca. (2019). How Fez Is Keeping Traditional Architecture and Craftsmanship Alive. [online] . Available at: [accessed on 1 December 2020]. (2020). [online] available at: [accessed on 1 December 2020]. (2020). [online] available at [accessed on 1 December 2020].










2 responses to “Urban Identity: Marketing Tools”

  1. That’s an interesting story about your journey Arif, a lot of excitement that you meet in your trip to morocco. I am interesting that you explain about city identity in morocco city as an old city that build centuries ago also have strong cultural heritage not surprisingly have their identity.

    In ancient city we will find organic pattern of layering history in every street and space around the city. It has beautiful meaning to someone who pass in the city. Interaction between building and space can create different atmosphere in every place (Sitte,1889).

    We not argue that most of the city identity in the world are reminiscent of their city past. And build with sense of art and beauty. But, I want to asked how about our contemporary cities. The city that rise from no more than hundred years. Some new cities born former colonialized region can somehow heritage their identity. But with some city that rise from scratch usually have dilemma to decide their city identity.

    What they call identity, a Cities were formed as an expression of spiritual, material, social and political conditions. The changes in these conditions from one city to another make each one a unique unrepeatable phenomenon.

    Can we make new identity for new city? And how about impact of modernization such as automobile, building technology and sustainable energy. It also can transform city shape and identity or it just become more like generic city everywhere.
    In my opinion the identity for contemporary cities must consider few of criteria to make new form of identity.
    1. The city must consider about the contextual of the place and using the passive approach to form their city to respond to their context
    2. A city must dig more about their culture and reform it into new ways of character in their cities
    3. To use local material as main material to show locality in that area.

    In this way the cities can be form their identity that must be preserved trough time. And can be distinctive from others place.

    Cammilo Sitte : The art of building cities;1889

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