Atlantic Coast, Asilah, Morocco
The jetty at Asilah projects like a finger out into the Atlantic. Located on the coast of Morocco approximately nineteen miles south of Tangiers, the village is composed of buildings set like white cubes on rocks behind a rampart. The town has a tumultuous past: it was first Portuguese, then Spanish, then Moorish. Recently, the Moroccan government has preserved the medina, or old quarter, restoring the architecture of houses to their original small scale and white-washed purity with green or blue trim and shutters.
One residence was restored by a couple and two talented friends, Francoise Dorget and Charles Chauliaguet. Francoise Dorget, owner of Caravane in Paris, a shop with textiles from all over the world, had become intrigued with Asilah’s particular style and the northern Rif region many years earlier. She and her architect-husband, Charles Chauliaguet, studied the village’s architecture in order to reproduce its elements for their friends’ residence.
Chauliaguet found himself following local building traditions since the Moroccan masons could not read his plans. The town is humid during winter storms, breakers often protect the windows of the sea-front houses, and water runs down the inner face of the rampart. The masons built double-thick walls of breeze blocks, and the corrosive weather conditions forced them to use more expandable wood for door frames. Windows were designed in traditional style.
Only one door leads into the original two-storey house from the six-foot-wide passageway separating it from the rampart. The ground floor includes the living-room, which becomes a master bedroom during the winter when it is warmer there than on the upper storey. Of the ground-level patio, Dorget says, ‘It is very calm, never windy and never too sunny. So the patio is quiet, and there we have lots of birds.’
To reach the upper bedrooms, an open-air staircase ascends to a small terrace like a sheltered landing with cotton awnings. It is open on the west side to the sea and on the east side to the patio. This terrace lies between green and blue bedrooms. A second staircase leads up to the roof terrace, which serves as a ‘garden’ as in typical Arab houses. There, like a cubic lookout tower above the terraces, an upper room serves as an office and occasional guest-room. ‘The terraces overlooking the sea offer another atmosphere compared to the patio,’ says Dorget.
‘There is quite a strong wind with the hot sun and the sea. It always seems different.’ She continues, ‘It is very pleasant from March and April – and also October is nice – because the light is so beautiful during these months. Even if it is a little cold in the evenings, it is always very sunny during the day. And almost half of the year it is quite warm for swimming. One thing to remember is that Asilah is on the Atlantic Ocean. It is very much an ocean, and the weather is very strong… Like Brittany, this area has the rocks, cliff and strong sea. It can be quite rough, like being out in the open ocean. Also when there is high tide or low tide, everything can change along the beach, all the time and each hour.’