Moroccan tiles appeared in the 10th century and were later inspired by Roman and Byzantine mosaics. Colors were less bright and not many. If you were in the white and brown market, you’d be lucky. The 11th century announced the creation of geometric patterns, such as star polygons.14 June 2020

A Notable History.  

The Moroccan tile first made an appearance way back in the 10th century and was thought to be inspired by Roman and Byzantine mosaics that were popular in that period. The colors were less vibrant and there wasn’t much of a choice, if you were in the market for white and brown you would have been in luck.

The 11th century heralded the establishment of geometric patterns, such as star polygons. The art of Zellij became very popular in the Azulejo period (Hispanic-Moresque period) in regions of Maghreb (Northwest Africa) and Al-Andalus (or Spain as we now call it).

The hands of time ticked by and brought with them developments to the craft of Zellij. The Nasrid Dynasty and Merinid Dynasty embraced the art, enhancing it with the addition of the green, blue and yellow Moroccan tile during the 14th century.

With colors becoming more popular the 17th century bore witness to the red Moroccan tile being added into the vibrant mix, and the innovations continued.

The 20th century heralded the import of glazes, which were coalesced with the conventional colors, offering even more choice.

Over the years, the ancient Moorish art has been adopted and embraced in many places, including Samarkland and Cordova. However, Zellij didn’t quite make it to the Americas. With the Spanish colonization of South and Central America there was a shortage of skilled artisans on hand to create the authentic Moroccan tilework. Instead Cuba, South America and Central America saw a rise in the popularity of the “Spanish tile.” These are cement and hand painted tiles that are attractive to look at and have their very own traditional backstory, but they are not comparable to Zellij.

It was in Andalusia and Morocco that the art of Zellij gained acclaim and was affectionately nurtured. The Moroccan tile became almost synonymous with Moorish architecture, with intricate and vibrant designs filling interior and exterior spaces alike.

Historically Zellij “the prince of tiles” has always been favored by the affluent. Decorative cement tiles were offered as a cheaper alternative but they could not match the exquisiteness of the true Zellij. Nowadays Morocco is the epicenter of the craft, with the city of Fez playing to host to some of the most skilled craftsman. They produce beautifully handmade Moroccan tilework in accordance with time honored tradition of Zellij and the results are breath-taking.