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The cradle of Moroccan diplomacy becomes a museum

The 'Dar al Niyaba' building in Tangier's medina
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PHOTO/TWITTER/@EmbEspanaRabat  -  

The cradle of Moroccan diplomacy, the historic Dar al Niyaba building in Tangier's medina, is from today a museum exhibiting works by painters who left their mark on the city's memory, such as the Spaniard Antonio Fuentes and the Frenchman Eugène Delacroix.

At the inauguration of this new space, the interim director of the centre, Brahim Salimi, explained to Efe that the works on display reflect the memory of Tangier as an ancient city and its role as the capital of Moroccan diplomacy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Also on display are works by world-famous artists who settled or passed through Tangiers, such as the Spaniard Fuentes, who was born and lived until his death in 1995 in this city on the Strait of Gibraltar, and whose paintings, donated to the museum by his family, are on display in two galleries.

The Spanish ambassador to Morocco, Ricardo Díez-Hochleitner, referred to Fuentes at the opening of the museum to pay tribute to him and stressed that his works will be exhibited in the building on a permanent basis.

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PHOTO/TWITTER/@EmbEspanaRabat

Another artist who left his mark on the building was Delacroix, who lived in "Dar al Niyaba" for two months during his visit to Tangiers in 1832, which inspired some of his most famous works, such as "The Jewish Wedding in Morocco".

The museum, which includes conference rooms and workshops for local painters, also offers visitors works by Orientalist painters, such as the French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) and his paintings of life in Tangier.

For the president of the Tangier Moments Foundation, Yunes Cheij Ali, whose organisation is dedicated to preserving the memory of the Atlantic city, the building is "one of the most beautiful" on the tourist street of Siaghine, which crosses the old town.

With a Portuguese-inspired design with its many arches and large windows, it was founded in the early 19th century to serve as the French Consulate in Tangier, but over the following decades it was put to a variety of uses.

After 1848, the Alaouite Sultan Mulay Abdelrahman (1789-1859) bought it from the French to make it the residence of their representative in Tangier and interlocutor with the international powers, making it the first building of Moroccan diplomacy.

Historic agreements between Morocco and other countries of the world were initialled in 'Dar al-Niyaba' (Arabic for 'The House of the Representative'), such as its trade agreement with the United Kingdom in 1856 and the peace agreement with Spain in 1860 after the Tetouan War.

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PHOTO/TWITTER/@EmbEspanaRabat

It was from here that Moroccan delegations left to attend decisive international events, such as the representatives of the 'Makhzen' (the name of the Moroccan central authority) who attended the Algeciras conference in 1906, which turned Morocco into a European colony.

The creation of this diplomatic nucleus, which sought to unify Morocco's official channels with the outside world, reflected a shift in Moroccan foreign policy as the country adopted an open-minded stance in the face of an increased colonial threat following its defeats by France at the Battle of Isly (1844) and by Spain in the War of Tetouan (1859).

The building, consisting of two floors and a large tree-lined central courtyard, was until 20 years ago the administrative headquarters of the town hall. After two decades almost in ruins, it was restored as part of an extensive renovation programme for Tangier's medina.

The restoration cost around 13 million dirhams (1.2 million euros) and was financed by the Ministry of Culture, the Wilaya (governorate) of Tangier, the Agency for the Development of the Provinces of Northern Morocco and the National Museum Foundation.