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Refurbishing the Perdicaris villa, the house once raided by Mulai Ahmed Raisuni’s bandits

The Perdicaris villa, which was once home to American-Greek expatriate Ion Perdicaris, is finally going to be refurbished. The house was raided in 1904 by the Jbala leader Raisuni and his bandits.

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The Perdicaris villa in Tangier which housed in 1904 American-Greek expatriate Ion Perdicaris./Ph. DR

Ion Perdicaris was Tangier’s wealthiest expatriate in the beginning of the 20th century. He was an American-Greek business man, a play-boy and a bon vivant who chose Morocco’s northern city to settle down and build a house for his wife and four step-children.

In the middle of the Rmilat forest, Perdicaris layed the founding stone of his villa which has survived Tangier’s strong winds, a kidnapping raid and nowadays neglect. The villa stands still at the heart of a park that now has the name of Perdicaris who once lived there with his family.

Refurbishing the Perdicaris villa

Fortunately, the Perdicaris villa’s rusty doors and almost-collapsing walls will be refurbished. In an article published in June, French-language daily newspaper Aujourd'hui le Maroc announced that the Place of Nightingales will be soon restored thanks to a MAD10 million budget plan.

The plan is part of the «Tangier-Metropole», a project launched by King Mohammed VI in 2013 to promote urban development in the city. Good news for those who have been dreaming for years to visit the villa that marked the history of Morocco, the United States and Hollywood.

According to the account of American diplomat Samuel R. Gummere’s niece, Mathilde Bedfors, «[Perdicaris'] villa, like most of the diplomats' homes, was outside the city walls».

«Morocco, at that time, had no roads, not even a carriage or wheel of any kind, so we went everywhere, even at night to dinners and dances, on horses and donkeys, and if it rained, I was carried in a sedan chair on the shoulders of four Jews», she wrote in 1964 when visiting her uncle who was the US Consul-General in Tangier from 1898 to 1905.

Although  the villa was located outside Tangier’s medina walls, it was a piece of art that attracted expacts in the city. The two-storey mansion had a Spanish architectural style to it and its balconies faced the sea.

In an attempt to recall the beauty and legacy of the house, the Tangier American Legation wrote on its website that it received photos that capture «villa Perdicaris looking rather pristine».

Indeed, the photos showed the original white finish of the exterior of the house which was completely decayed, showing bare brick. Some of the pictures capture the Perdicaris mother and children, enjoying a relaxed moment in the house's garden.

A raided house

Despite its location and the beauty of its architicture, the Perdicaris house which was also called Villa Aidonia captured the attention of the world in 1904. In fact, the house was raided by Jbala leader Mulai Ahmed Raisuni and his bandits.

On the 18th of May of the same year, Raisuni’s men raided the Place of the Nightingales, which was home to «a menagerie of dogs, monkeys and cranes», recalled historical sources.

Ion Perdicaris and one of his step-sons were taken by Raisuni and were held hostage for a couple of weeks while they were having an early dinner at the villa’s terrace. The abduction was the incident of the century with American President Theodore Roosevelt, who was running for presidency, reacting to it.

His famous statement «Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead !» was spread and the affair gained so much notoriety.

Ion Perdicaris and his step-son were later released but the family name was engraved in the city’s history and so was their raided house. The latter was even part of one of Hollywoods’ most famous movies «The Wind and the Lion».

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