Renovation von Riad LakLak

In meinem blog Finding and Renovating a Riad in Marrakech beschreibe ich meine Erfahrung mit dem Suchen, Kaufen und der Renovation von Riad LakLak in Marrakesch. Weiter unten finden Sie einige meiner Blog-Einträge (Besuchen Sie bitte den Blog für eine bessere Darstellung).

Finding, buying and renovating a riad in the medina of Marrakech.

Renting Riad LakLak Marrakech (Sat, 01 Mar 2014)

In this blog, I describe the renovation of Riad LakLak. To see pictures of the renovated house visit www.riad-laklak-marrakech.com. If you have questions or comments send me a message.
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Tadelakt Outdoors (Mon, 01 Aug 2011)

Tadelakt is a water-proof, shiny lime-based plaster for interior and exterior use. It is the traditional coating of the palaces, hammams and bathrooms of the riads in Morocco. Its marble-like appearance make it ideal for bathrooms, fireplaces, table-tops, stairways, pillars and other ornamental use. Tadelakt means "to rub in" because the nearly finished lime coat is polished with a stone, rubbing Tadelakt soap into the surface. The Tadelakt soap, which is based on pure olive oil, adds to the shine, but perhaps even more important, it makes sure the surface is left waterproof.  In Riad LakLak you can find tadelakt in every bath room. Furthermore, many floors are made with tadelakt and the entire terrace as well. There are waste differences in the quality of tadelakt. The key is to find good tadelakt craftsmen. The artwork is not difficult but very exhausting. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to produce high quality tadelakt.    Below you can find a series of pictures that display the application of tadelakt on the terrace.
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Zouak (painted woodwork) (Wed, 06 Jul 2011)

One of most spectacular artwork of Morocco is the painted cedar wood ceilings. The motives are often flowers, birds, stars and other naturalistic elements. The term Zouak refers to such woodwork. The ceilings are painted with natural pigments such as saffron (yellow), poppy (red), and mint (green). Riad LakLak is fortunate to have restored some of the most spectacular finely painted ceilings in Marrakech. Here are some photos that show the motives. Further below, you can find photos of the painted ceilings. Some of them are 10 meters long and almost 4 meters wide.
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Carved plaster (Tue, 05 Jul 2011)

Plaster Carvings are an important element of Moroccan Architecture. Some of the best display of plaster work can be seen in the Bahia palace or the Musée de Marrakech. The art of carved plaster is still practiced throughout Morocco. If you plan to add carved plaster to your house, make sure that it is made by hand. You can also buy prefabricated carved plaster. It is very cheap but it is worth to pay the extra cost for the hand-made carved plaster. In contrast to the prefabricated carved plaster, the patterns are not regular which makes all the difference. In Riad LakLak we have restored some splendid ancient plaster carvings. You can see the workers in action in the following pictures.
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Zelliges (tilework) (Mon, 04 Jul 2011)

From Wikipedia: "Zellige is terra cotta tilework covered with enamel in the form of chips set into plaster. It is one of the main characteristics of the Moroccan architecture. It consists of geometrical mosaics made from ceramic used mainly as an ornament for walls, ceilings, fountains, floors, pools, tables, etc. The art of zellige flourished at the Hispano-Moresque period of Morocco." When we bought Riad LakLak a large part of the Zellige was destroyed. However, we could find remains of the original artwork. In the picture below you can see one of the restored floors of Riad LakLak. Further below you can see the Zellige-worker in action.
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Tadelakt Floors (Sun, 03 Jul 2011)

In Marrakech, in most cases the floors are made of three kind. Either tiles, Tadelakt or colored cement. For the terrace and the patio we have chosen tiles. In most rooms, we have chosen Tadelakt. Note that Tadelakt floors are fragile to, for instance, small stones in the sole of a shoe which will scratch the finish.  It is only advised to use Tadelakt floors in areas where walking is done bare feet or on soft shoes. Note also that it is advised to add mosaic tapes, in order to avoid breaks.
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Fer Forgé (wrought ironwork) (Fri, 01 Jul 2011)

In Marrakech you can still find wrought ironwork forged by a blacksmith using an anvil. We made extensive use of this opportunity. The most spectacular piece of wrought ironwork is a large room-divider in one of our suites. It is displayed in the following pictures. All railings are made from wrought ironwork.  
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Phase 4: Finitions (Fri, 01 Jul 2011)

"Finitions" is the French expression for the last phase, where all details are completed so that you can finally move into the Riad. Finition includes Tadelakt (polished wall finish plaster made of powdered limestone; it is colored with natural pigments) Plâtres sculptés (carved plaster) Zelliges (complex geometrical patterns of glazed tiles) Zouak (finely painted woodwork) Fer forge (forged iron) In what follows, we provide one example for each of these traditional Moroccan handycraft.
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Adding a kitchen (Wed, 15 Jun 2011)

One very nice aspect of Moroccan architecture is that a lot of furniture is made out of brick and mortar. This eliminates the need to buy furniture. Here you can see the construction of the kitchen. Adding the kitchen counter:
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Adding the bathrooms (Wed, 01 Jun 2011)

It's time to design the individual bathrooms. This is much fun. In the following picture, you can see the emergence of the bathroom in one of the suites. The series of pictures starts with Omar reflecting on the size of the bath tube. After measurement, the construction of the bathroom starts. It will be finished in less than a day (without Tadelakt). If you are not happy with it, destruction will take 30 minutes and you can have another try. An interesting difference between construction in Marrakech and, say, Switzerland is that there is little formal planning. Take the example of constructing a bathroom. Typically, we would meet in the morning to discuss it. Everyone, including the mason and often also other workers, would contribute with their ideas. In most cases, it took little time to find a good solution and the mason began his work. In the evening, we gathered again to look at his workmanship. Most often, we were satisfied with it and move on to the next bathroom. Sometimes, however, we didn't like it. In this case, the mason simply destroyed his work in 30 minutes, and we would have attempt the next morning.    Adding Tadlak:  In order to not interrupt the view of the painted ceiling, we added a room divider:
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Restoring the woodwork (Tue, 03 May 2011)

When we bought Riad, we found small remnants of the original woodwork, which we then restored carefully. Here is an example:
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Plumbing (Mon, 02 May 2011)

For the plumbing, we advice to choose a Rolls Royce solution by which we mean never go for the cheap material and find a good plumber. If you do not insist on quality and control(!) it, you will get the average Marrakech plumbing. The average plumbing means that after two or three years you will have "fuites" which in French means "leaks" and you are constantly fighting for the rest of your ownership with about two-to-three "fuites" a year. Each time your walls have to be opened in search for the leaks and everything that is destroyed during this process has to be redone. Plan two or three places in the house (depends on the size of the Riad) where the water pipes concentrate. Keep them easily reachable in case you need to fix them.
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Reinforcing the walls (Sun, 01 May 2011)

In this phase, the house receives the underwear. The walls are reinforced if needed and any humidity is addressed. Furthermore, a layer of cement is applied to the walls. The main actor on the building site is the mason.
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Phase 3: Construction (Fri, 15 Apr 2011)

After phase 2, the house is nicely undressed and is waiting for its new cloth. I will call this phase the construction phase. It contains several elements: Remodeling the walls Adding bathrooms and a kitchen Plumbing Electricity Heating We had very specific ideas how to renovate Riad LakLak from the first day. However, while we undressed Riad LakLak we made many discoveries - most of them in fact positive. At this point of the renovation process it is an excellent idea to rethink all your plans. Where do you want to place the bath rooms and the kitchen? Traditional Riads have neither bathrooms nor kitchens since Marrakshis (inhabitants of Marrakech) traditionally used a public hammam if they need a shower, and the cooking was done in the patio.   Second, find an optimal solution for the plumbing and electricity. It turns out that once a Riad is stripped down to the bare bones, it is relatively easy to find good solutions. Third, a very important point during this phase is to make sure that all walls are dry. At this point of the renovation, it is relatively easy to fix humid walls.
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Surprises (Sat, 02 Apr 2011)

As I mentioned already, Riad LakLak is about 400 hundred years old. It has seen good and bad times. In the process of "undressing" the house we found many hidden treasures. For example, we found a very large cellar which is very unusual for a Riad in Marrakech. We found two very deep wells. Finally, we found many hidden artwork. The biggest surprise was that we found some very old and very rare Jewish motives in one of the rooms on the first floor. It was covered by a thick layer of plaster. We also found hand painted ceiling such as the one below under a thick layer of white painting. We carefully removed the white painting mechanically.
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Déshabillage (Fri, 01 Apr 2011)

Below you can find a few picture of the undressed Riad LalLak.
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Phase 2: Déshabillage (Tue, 01 Mar 2011)

In the first phase we have removed every wall and other rubbish that will not be needed. The second phase involves to scratch everything from the walls such that only the brick and mud remains with which the house was originally built. In French, this process is called " déshabillage ". A literal translation would be to "undress" the house.
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Transportation (Tue, 15 Feb 2011)

Most Riads in the Medina of Marrakech are located in small derbs (streets). They have no car access and so everything has to be transported with donkeys. If you like donkeys, you will like the following pictures.
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Destruction (Tue, 01 Feb 2011)

Riad LakLak is located close to the main entrance of the Mellah of Marrakech. The Mellah was constructed in the sixteenth century after the decision of the sultan in 1557 that the Jews were to live in his capital in a walled quarter near the palace district. We know nothing about the early history of the house, but we know that it was owned by a rich Jewish gold-trader around 1900. From what we discovered during the renovation, it must have seen spectacular times. However, by the end of December 2010, the house was in a sorry state. There were approximately 15 families living in the house, each family occupying one or two small rooms. In order to accommodate so many inhabitants, many small walls were added throughout the Riad. The terrace was enlarged to accommodate more small dwellings by reducing the opening to the patio. The first phase of the renovation simply involved to get rid of the many additions that have been added to the house in the last century. In the following pictures you will see the removal of walls, entire apartment, stairs etc., which took about 2 months. There is no need for words as the pictures speak for themselves.  Progressive removal of stuff from the terrace:   Progressive removal of stuff from the first floor Progressive removal of stuff from the ground floor
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Phase 1: Destruction (Sat, 15 Jan 2011)

Many houses in the Medina of Marrakech are in very bad conditions. There are two reasons for it: First, many houses contained beautiful artwork such as hand painted wooden ceilings, large doors and other artifacts. Some Marrakshi suddenly (I don't know when this process started) discovered that there is a market for this artwork and began to strip the houses from them. Apparently, some of these jewels ended up as far as in California to decorate villas in Orange county. The removal of the wooden ceilings was in particular very damaging for the Riads. Once they are removed, the house is open and the rain and the blistering sun will slowly destroy it. The second reason is social. The Medina of Marrakech became poorer over time even though that Morocco became richer. The reason is that for most Moroccans, the dream is to move out of the Medina into one of the modern settlements in the new town or outside of Marrakech. The result is that most Moroccans that still live in the Medina are relatively poor and cannot afford to rent an entire house. So the owner of the Riads started to rent smaller and smaller units by adding walls to split up existing rooms. If you are lucky to find a Riad which still can be renovated, the first phase of the renovation is to removes all these cheap late addition. This takes quit a bit of time and is also not cheap. The reason is that all removed material needs to be carried out of the Medina and this is done with small carts and donkeys. One transportation costs about 35 Dirham (about 3 Euros) and the number of transportations can easily be several hundred.
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The renovation process (Sat, 01 Jan 2011)

The renovation process of a Riad can be divided into four phases. Destruction Déshabillage (stripping the house) Construction (adding new cloth) Finition In what follows, I will discuss each of these four phases.
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The buying process (Wed, 15 Dec 2010)

After my first step into my new future home and the formal buying of Riad LakLak it took about one month. These are the key steps. You need to open a special bank account reserved to foreigners in order to transfer the money. This account allows you to return your money to your home country if you decide to sell your house one day. You have to arrange a meeting with a notary, where are relevant parties of the transaction can be present. If you buy a house from a Moroccan family, it is important to have a good real estate agent. The houses on sale belong often to several members of a family and each one of then has to agree to terms of the sale. Many times suddenly some conflicts within the family emerge, which requires constant attention and mediation by the real state agency. Everything appeared to be ready for the sale. Between Christmas and New Year of 2010, I came to Marrakech with a thick checkbook and lots of expectations. All parties met at the notary and we had some final negotiations about minor issues. Everything appeared to coming along very well. Then, suddenly, the language turned from French to Arabic and there were intense discussions between the family members and the notary. This went on for about 30 minutes and I couldn't understand a single bit. Then suddenly the discussion stopped and everybody stood up. To my satisfaction, the notary remembered my presence and informed me that the sale cannot take place..... OK then. I did not really understand why it could not take place, but it appeared that there were some problems with the identity documentation of some of the family members. I was informed that the family will fix this problem and that we will meet again in about 10 days. Unfortunately,  it was not possible for me to be in Marrakech at that time. I was informed that I can sign a procuration that gives authority to someone to sign the papers for me. This is what I did and about ten days later the sale took place. In summary, my impression is that the whole buying process is rather well organized and foreigners obtain sufficient protection. Nevertheless, the process can be challenging. In particular, the main challenges are that we are not accustomed to the Moroccan way and the language barriers. I would certainly recommend to delegate most of the work to a good real estate agent.
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Finding Riad LakLak (Tue, 14 Dec 2010)

After visiting dozens of Riads, I finally met my perfect new house. It is nicely located between the Bahia palace and the Badii palace. Moreover, it is just a few steps from the "place des ferblantiers" which is one of my favorite spots in Marrakech. A very competent real estate agent, led me directly to my new home. I made one step into the house and I knew that's the one! The pictures below show what I saw the first time I stepped into Riad LakLak. You will immediately understand that I fell in love immediately  ,-) .  Ok, the pictures above do not look very attractive. However, the house was very solid and I could see some remnants of some very very old artwork here and there. Here, you can see some of the hidden artwork To be sure that everything is OK with the house, I asked my Moroccan friend Omar to check it thoroughly.  He was exited about the house in the same way as I. I then bought it two weeks later between Christmas 2010 and New Year. In what follows, I describe the renovation process. Mid January 2011, we began with the renovation. By the end of February 2012, the renovation was more or less completed. However, one has to say that a Riad renovation is never really complete as one always finds room for improvements. For examples, since the Riad has a beautiful large cellar (it is very unusual that a Riad in the Medina of Marrakech has a cellar) I plan to convert the cellar into a hammam.
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(Thu, 02 Dec 2010)

Riad LakLak in Marrakesh has 7 bedrooms and can sleep up to 16 persons. To rent a smaller riad, check out our website Marrakesh riad rental. I also recommend Riad Naila which is a beautiful Marrakesh vacation rental in the medina of Marrakesh.
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The search process (Thu, 01 Jul 2010)

In retrospect, finding a riad was the biggest challenge. For about 8 month I was searching on the Internet and visiting many riads that were for sale all over the Medina. There are many real estate agents in Marrakech and all of them have similar portfolios. I found a couple of riads on the Internet that were very attractive and reasonably priced. It just turned out to be that the attractive ones did either not exist or have been sold a long time ago but the real estate agents kept them on their websites to attract traffic. That means if you contact a real estate agent, the chances are high that he shows you many properties but never the ones that you intended to look at back home in front of your computer. One other problem that emerged frequently is that a riad is for sale on a real estate agent's website but that it had no title. Many offered properties, and in particular properties with a reasonable price tag, have a "Melkia" only. This means that considerable paper work has to be done in order that a foreigner can buy such a property A "Melkia" is a historic scroll, which document family ownership and the inheritance of a property. It order for a foreigner to buy Riad which has a Melkia only, the seller has first to initiate the titling process with the land registry. This involves several steps. First, a local Muslim lawyer has to provide documentation of ownership. This can take some time, in particular, if many dispersed owners are mentioned in the Melkia. Second, the property has to be measured. This is done by a geometer.  Third, the new demise plan along with the verified ownership papers are submitted to the land registry. Finally, the notary has to apply for a requisition number from the administration. Only after such an number is available, a foreigner can buy the property. The consequence of all this is that although many riads are available for sale, the effective number shrinks drastically if one eliminates the ones which have a Melkia only
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