Morocco's rich culture is well reflected in the residence of its ambassador to China. Exuberant colors, exquisite art and hand crafts with Moroccan flair abound in this lovely home.
Ambassador Jaafar Alj Hakim and his wife Nouria Alj Hakim have lived in Beijing for more than five years.
“By the end of the current year, I will have completed six years serving as ambassador to China; a very rewarding experience in every aspect,” Jaafar said. “I was pleased to see the Sanlitun area where our embassy is located.”
Official residences of the country’s diplomats in foreign countries reflect the more than 1,000-year-old culture of the Kingdom of Morocco. The most recent position the ambassador held was in Seoul, South Korea. He said that although the residence was smaller, it nevertheless reflected the country’s culture.
“Hospitality and a friendly welcome are the key words that shape our lifestyle and everything is fitted out accordingly, while taking into account Moroccan style,” Jaafar said.
This Moroccan jewel in the center of Beijing is a wonderful showcase of the country’s diverse history. The home feels rich and exotic with bold colors and shapes.
The house even features traditional Moroccan architectural details like beautiful archways and curved doorways.
A collection of Chinese antique furnishings belonging to the embassy add to the traditional artifacts and textiles the ambassador and his wife brought from Morocco so they can “feel at home.”
A special area dedicated to the Moroccan tea ceremony was created next to the staircase leading to the second level.
“We drink Moroccan mint tea five times a day minimum. When we welcome guests, we always present our national drink using the crystal tea cups,” Jaafar said.
Elaborately carved antique Chinese furniture is set among exotic purple, green, red and ochre Moroccan textiles.
“The highlight in the residence is definitely the sitting room, which has notably been furnished with Moroccan-style long sofas, sculpted tables, coffee tables, jars, crafts and art books,” Jaafar said.
“The Moroccan hand-crafted pieces, including various terracotta jars and articles made of copper, edged drapes and oil paintings all reflect our culture,” he added.
Nouria’s paintings are another highlight. Through her works she expresses a love of humanity. Be they impressionist, contemporary or abstract, her art reflects a profound attachment to human integrity, according to Jaafar.
Her art has been heavily influenced by her diplomatic life as she has lived everywhere from Casablanca to Brussels and Niamet to Seoul. A solo exhibition dedicated to her works was held two years ago at Beijing’s Forbidden City Museum.
She also takes charge of decorating the home. She finds many ways to light up the interior. For her the residence has to be cozy and inviting. Color, her paintings, Moroccan carpets, curtains and embroideries, beautiful plants and proper lighting are the basic ingredients of a warm and inviting space, she said.
“In a typical Moroccan home, textiles and embroideries are key elements. Wood, silver and local handicrafts are also obvious,” Nouria said, adding she had handpicked all the textiles and crafts from her hometown for the embassy in Beijing.
“During the evenings when our guests come to our receptions or dinners, I would like to create a very different atmosphere like in Marrakech, decorated with candles and dim lights,” she said.
An ambassador’s schedule is very busy, according to Jaafar.
“Mine covers, amongst others, the management of the embassy, the development of new content, holding working meetings and taking part in conferences and Chinese cultural activities,” he said.
Jaafar said they host events and receptions at the residence almost every week.
Morocco was the second African country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, doing so in 1958.
“As a result of excellent bilateral relations between the two countries, either a Chinese delegation pays a visit to Morocco every week, or it is a Moroccan delegation visiting China,” he said. “We also often host cultural activities to broaden relationships with the Chinese in order to better reveal and promote my country. My wife, in her capacity as an artist, ensures a broad participation in our activities.
“From another standpoint, I shall recall Morocco’s participation to the 2010 Shanghai Expo. According to the organizers, the Morocco Pavilion was the third most visited at the expo,” he said.
“However, I devote the weekend entirely to my family. We like to go exploring in the 798 art district, walking in Chaoyang Park to enjoy the greenery and the water in Houhai and Beihai; sometimes going outside Beijing to enjoy the beautiful landscapes.”