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Morocco is known for its multitude of beautiful buildings with striking designs. Skilled artisans and master craftspeople added ornate touches to many buildings, with many details remaining for the world to admire today. Restoration works have seen the revival of some practices too. You may already know about the colourful and detailed tilework known as zellige, but are you familiar with tadelakt? Learn more about the practice and find out where you can see fine examples of the plasterwork around the nation.
Tadelakt is a plasterwork technique that originated in the hills near Morocco’s old imperial city of Marrakesh. Created by Berbers to originally seal cisterns used to store drinking water, the addition of colours to the smooth plaster resulted in it being used for decorative purposes in homes around the country. Traditionally, red pigment is added to the paste, although tadelakt can actually be made in almost any colour.
Tadelakt processes are thought to date back at least 4000 years and it is often said to be one of the best plaster techniques in the world. Lime plaster paste is spread on surfaces before being polished with a special river stone, and is then sealed with a natural soap. Although the plasterwork eventually shows fine cracks over time, it retains its waterproof features and beautiful appearance. Surfaces should, however, be re-treated with soap every few years.
Although waterproof, it may be used in places that do not require a waterproofed surface. It is commonly used to coat walls, both inside and out, baths, fountains, ceilings, sinks, and water containers. Today, tadelakt is celebrated for its aesthetic qualities, and is used to decorate many homes and other buildings in Morocco and beyond. The beauty of the plaster is often found in its simplicity.
The splendid exteriors of Casablanca’s famous Hassan II Mosque cannot fail to impress visitors. Once inside, the glorious details keep people spellbound. The simple tadelakt walls in the lower area present a terrific contrast to the gleaming floors and the patterned pillars.
Located in Tangier, the charming Villa Mabrouka was once home to the acclaimed Parisian fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Saint Laurent lived in the property with his partner, Pierre Bergé. Unlike many of their other homes, Villa Mabrouka displays an understated elegance. Rather plain, the designs reflect the peace and tranquility that were enjoyed in the clifftop property. Traditional Moroccan tadalekt covers many of the walls, with fancy paintings and other ornamentation unnecessary against such minimalist beauty.
People being pampered in the delightful So Spa at the Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses in the Moroccan capital city can feast their eyes on the splendid plastered walls that seem to almost sparkle. Regal purples contrast with earthy tones, with the aesthetic appeal enhanced by green walls and fountain tiles, marble benches, and soft lighting.
Visit Marrakesh’s once-grand and now-ruined palace to see how tadelakt was used in the past. The plastered edges enclose zellige floors, letting you see two traditional crafts from yesteryear side by side. It’s easy to imagine how grand El Badi Palace must have been in the past.
A fancy hotel on the outskirts of Marrakesh, the Sahara Palace can be found in the Palmeraie neighbourhood. Coloured tadelakt adorns the walls, adding an opulent and rather decadent air. Deep greens, sandy oranges, and bold reds complement the traditional furnishings and textiles. Sip a drink at the magnificent Oyster Bar, with its beautifully plastered walls, grand chandeliers, and elegant curtains.
The Saadian Tombs is a popular historic site in the Red City of Marrakesh, and many visitors may not realise that they are passing through high tadelakt-covered walls as they pass through the site. Reds and oranges cover exterior walls along narrow passages, presenting a beautiful effect in the former royal burial ground.
Great examples of tadalekt can be found in the picture-perfect La Sultana hotel in Marrakesh. Treat yourself to a stay in the Dromadaire Suite and relax in what has been described by Qantas as one of the world’s most amazing bathtubs. The tadelakt walls are dusky pink in colour, with a spectacular, pillar-surrounded, pink marble bathtub taking pride of place in the centre of the room.
With the home of tadelakt not far from the Red City, it perhaps isn’t surprising to find that many of Marrakesh’s fine buildings boast exquisite plasterwork on their walls. The high-class Selman Marrakech is no exception. Luxurious touches are melded with traditional designs and techniques. Gorgeous Arabian features include attractive tadelakt walls, as well as zellige and carved plaster.
The accommodation of Riad Dar Haven can be found in the small Berber fishing village of Tamraght, close to the popular beach resort of Agadir, and the area is known for its great surfing. After a day on the waves, the superbly designed rooms of the traditional riad are ideal for some rest and relaxation. Smooth plaster covers the walls and some rooms even come with an enticing tadelakt-covered bath tub.
Kasbah Titrit is a glorious accommodation in Ouarzazate. Close to the spectacular ksar and movie-makers’ darling of Aït Benhaddou, Kasbah Titrit combines traditional Moroccan designs and modern comforts. The various coloured tadelakt walls in the bedrooms, common areas, and spa are a pleasure to behold.
Visitors to Essaouira can admire the simple yet striking earthy-pink coloured tadelakt of Le Jardin des Douars without needing to set foot inside the property; the exterior walls are coated in the decorative and waterproof plaster. Looking rather like a small castle from times gone by, the property is certainly photogenic.