The Moroccan Renovations Team

Anyone who has attempted a renovation in Morocco will be quick to tell you how difficult it is to find the right team to do the work. Now some of the top craftsmen in the Fez Medina have banded together to provide a superb level of service.

No matter how big or small the job is, the Moroccan Renovations Team have the skills. From electrical cable laying through to fixing a switch, Driss is the man for the job. You want zellij tiles laid or simply repaired? Nouredine is your man. As far as stonemasons go, they don't come more experienced than Mustapha who has worked on some of the most stunning renovations in Fez. Abellkader is renowned for his plaster work and he and his team can do every finish, any colour and carved plaster as well.

The team is lead by the personable Mouaniss who has managed some of the most notable renovations in Fez, including that of Riad Zany - the house at the heart of Suzanna Clarke's worldwide best seller "A House in Fez". In fact the Moroccan Renovations Team all worked on Riad Zany and continue to care for it.  

Riad Zany - A Moroccan Renovations project

The Moroccan Renovations team are the preferred restorers for the Fes Riads projects. Fez Riads was set up with the express intention of supporting restoration work in the Fez medina carried out in a private capacity. December 2006 saw the first projects get off the ground, (Fez Riads would like to thank all the guest houses who have contributed a minimum of 2% of clients' accommodation costs to the restoration fund). 

A fine example of the collaboration between Moroccan Renovations and Fez Riads is the DERB BOUHAJ FOUNTAIN PROJECT (April 2010)


This small fountain at the lower end of Derb Bouhaj near the skin-washing facility had lost most of its mosaic tiles and was filled with rubbish. There's no longer a water supply to this fountain.  


However after the team went to work it was superbly renovated, much to the pleasure of local residents. 

To contact: Mouaniss Mohammed


The Master Plasterer!

Many people have asked how Moroccan plasterers manage to make such wonderful shapes and designs. Well, here is a simple demonstration of one such undertaking

The plasterer is Abellkader and his task is to transform a hammam doorway into a more traditional style.

His first job is to mark out the curved template, which he does on a piece of plywood.

Next comes the cutting of the template. This is the only point in the work where Abellkader uses a non-traditional tool.

Abellkader checks the template against the door.

Unlike other countries where plaster mixing is often done with a large electric mixer, Abellkader prefers to mix by hand. "With my hand I can continually monitor the mixture and get it perfect. A machine can not do that," he says.

A small notch has been made in the door frame and nails hammered into the top of the door. Abellkader balances a traditional clay brick into the notch and the secures it with a thick, quick drying rough plaster.

It takes the plaster a couple of minutes to make the brick secure.

Using the same rough plaster mix, Abellkader fills in behind the brick and strengthens it by pushing small scraps of brick into the mixture.

Once both sides have been given the rough shape, Abellkader checks with the plywood template.

The bottom of the design must be straight on both sides, so Abellkader adds a wooden guide.

The template is then attached with a small amount of plaster and the shape of the design is refined.

The final touches are added.

Next the template is removed and the already hardening plaster is scraped into the final shape, leaving a good surface that is the correct shape, but with a texture that allows a good grip for the final addition of fine plaster.

Abellkader - happy with the final outcome. Total time? Three hours.


Getting Plastered in Fez!

Earlier this year, the master plasterer, Abellkader, vanished from the Fez scene to take up commissions in Europe. At the time there was much consternation because it seemed likely that he might be tempted to stay in Spain or France. Thankfully, we can report that after a highly successful sojourn overseas, he has returned to the Fez Medina.

Now speaking a fair amount of Spanish along with his Arabic, Darija and French, Abellkader is once again working on restoration projects. His latest work has been a bathroom and internal balcony for a New Zealand couple who own a riad in the Medina.

Their comment about his work? "Superb, quick, inventive and artistic, this man has it all. We've heard so many horror stories - but Abellkader was and is the best in Fez"


More great work by Abbelkader

Abbelkader has recently been working on a house owned by Louis Macintosh - Dar Mernissi - and once again the reports on his work are glowing. Here is an excerpt from Louis' blog:

So how's the work going? Well slow but sure is the order of the day awaiting zellige to finish two bathrooms and then Abbelkader with the boys sweeps into full tadelakt mode to give it the finising sheen. They have finished the menzeh bathroom in a beautiful biscuit colour and I have the raised sink and funky taps as in the photo ready to be plumbed in.

Apparently they leave the tadelakt for fifteen days then give it a high polish to seal it completely should look great. Surprised at the number of visitors I have had recently purely to look at the tadelakt, not to see me, there has been Aussie Pete and Karen, Pizza Mike, Fred and Thierry from Laroussa and John and Jenny. I dont think anyone has seen Abbelkader's tadelakt before as he has his own style and i think he will be in great demand. His plasterwork is already renowned throughout the medina so there will be another string to his bow now.


Before and after - The Abbelkader touch.


The central courtyard of Riad Zany was a major piece of work for Abbelkader and one for which he developed the special sand coloured plaster. The previous colour had been a the white limewash so popular in the early twentieth century. As the house was far older it was decided to take it back to its "roots" - hence the choice of a natural sand from local sand. The final effect is a warm and inviting space without the harsh glare of white plaster.



The master of fine detail

Abbelkader's attention to the small details is superb. Corners, cornices and unusual architectural features are all treated to close attention and creative thinking.

Here he is seen working with a very special plaster created for the restoration of Riad Zany from a mixture of plaster and very fine Fez sand that has been sifted with great care. The fine particles in suspension colour the water that is then added to the mixture, producing a finish that is truly in keeping with the heritage values of the Medina.


Moroccan Plaster - an introduction

Abbelkader demonstrates various colour examples

Abbelkader is the most impressive craftsman in plaster restoration in the Fez Medina. He is an expert in all types of plaster work from detailed carving either new or restored, Tadelakt and medluk. His use of traditional lime based plaster is important as lime plasters offer advantages over cement based mortars and pure gypsum plasters for the internal plastering of traditional properties, especially when decorated with a traditional limewash. Their porosity allows the structure to "breathe". They can accommodate general movement better and their self-healing nature reduces cracking problems. they can reduce condensation problems.

is a Moroccan render technique in which a special lime render is applied and compressed (polished) with stones. The surface is then polished many times with natural olive oil soap (sabon beldi) which results in a compact shiny surface. This technique is not only used for exterior and interior walls but also for floors, bathtubs, showers, and table surfaces.

According to David Amster's informative site A House in Fez, "...the outer walls of houses were finished with medluk, made of extremely fine sand, lime (jeer), egg white, and sabon beldi (traditional soft soap made from olive by-products). Medluk develops a beautiful marbled effect over time. Simple geometric patterns are sometimes pressed or carved into the medluk. In Marrakech this mixture is called tadlakt, which is slightly finer and shinier due to the difference in the sand and lime from the two cities. These days tadlakt is often colored and has become very fashionable on interior walls. Good examples of new medluk are the inner walls of the Nejjarine Museum, and the outside walls of Dar Adiyel and the Bou Inania Medersa. The bathrooms in many recent maison d'hotes in Fez are done in tadlakt."

What a difference good plaster can make!

A Riad Zany salon - before

A Riad Zany salon - After

Another major piece of work recently completed by Abellkader was the plaster work on Dar Settash, a technically demanding project due to the amount of fine carved plaster work. The results featured in a British TV program and brought admiration from across the UK.

Dar Settash