In all my years of selling and renovating riads, I have never come across a restoration opportunity such as this – nor do I think I will do again. This type of property and this age is so rare. I can only think of one other similar private property in the Marrakech Medina, Dar Cherifa, and this site is infinitely superior in scale, antiquity and antique detailing.
The riad is enviably situated in one of the oldest and most exclusive neighbourhoods in the Medina, right next to the main square, La Place Jemaa El Fna and is probably around five hundred years old.
Its original use might well have had a religious slant. It is most likely that it would have been associated with the redundant neighbouring mosque, as its extra-ordinary architectural detailing and Koranic inscriptions are prevalent in the great classical religious buildings from the Merenid period, between the thirteenth and sixteenth century, a time when Marrakech was undergoing a building boom that attracted highly skilled and specialist artisans from as far afield as Andalucia – (in the Moroccan Spanish empire), Europe and the Middle East. The design and use of materials from this period represent the last surge of grand architecture in Marrakech and it was an era that was responsible for architectural wonders such as the similarly styled Ben Youssef Medersa, which was constructed in the mid-sixteenth century.
The riad is titled and 450m2.
It is in varying states of disrepair. Some of it is decrepit, particularly the entrance. However the principal portion of the riad, around the main courtyard, is predominantly intact. Furthermore, due to its grand old brick structure, it is structurally sound.
The volume and scale of the main courtyard engulfs you upon entry. It is quite striking.
The effect is then complimented with the opulent Merenid design, with its remarkably accomplished craftsmanship and stunning architecture. It is truly a work of art.
Every inch of surfacing is blessed with exquisite detailing – as the photos illustrate. This was typical of the time and the Merenid style. Everything on the courtyard facades, from the rare upper bands of carved cedar wood planking to the filigreed stucco marry beautifully in a harmonious marriage of materials, textures and colour.
However one of the most enticing prospects about the site is the fact so much has been lost from sight over time like, for example, the original hand cut zellij floors, which are intact, but buried under an accumulation of earth and dust – waiting to be uncovered and put back into their former glory. This is evident from just simple scrapping on the floors.
The same is true of some of the unique and exquisite plasterwork and profound Koranic calligraphy lost under coats of newer protective plaster that former owners have slapped onto the walls.
This imbues the riad with an undeniable romanticism. Any restoration project would therefore naturally embody an almost archeological aspect, in which ancient artwork could be rediscovered then brought back to life and preserved for posterity.
Reluctantly the delightful elderly American owners are looking to sell the riad. Due to an unfortunate health issue, Medina life is no longer appropriate for them and they cannot fulfill their dream of turning the riad into a unique home.
The owners both fell instantly in love with the property upon first sight and now sincerely hope they can find someone who sees the same magic in it and is inspired enough to breathe new life back into it – thereby saving a historic treasure.
The price is 4m dhs.