Rehabilitation and social action in Marrakech, Morocco

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Pilot Operation

Rehabilitation and social action in Marrakech, Morocco Improving the traditional living environment

Centre Méditerranéen de l’Environnement Marrakech (CMEM) Morocco

Pilot Operation

Rehabilitation and social action in Marrakech, Morocco Improving the traditional living environment



Euromed heritage

Agencia española De cooperación internacional

Col·legi d’aparelladors I arquitectes tècnics de barcelona

Centre Méditerranéen de l’Environnement Marrakech (CMEM) Morocco

Consortium Rehabimed

Spanish translation Anna CAMPENY

Project Manager Xavier CASANOVAS

Arab translation: Moualy-Abdeslam SAMRAKANDI and Mohamed CHNAQ

Members Ministry of Communications and Works Department of Antiquities of Cyprus Person in charge: Evi FIOURI

Graphic design AD Lluís Mestres. Graphic Design Jordi Ruiz, Marta Vilches

Bureau Culturel de l’Ambassade de la République Arabe d’Egypte en France Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypte Persons in charge: Mahmoud ISMAÏL and Wahid Mohamed EL-BARBARY Col·legi d’Aparelladors i Arquitectes Tècnics de Barcelona, Spain Person in charge: Xavier CASANOVAS Ecole d’Avignon, France Person in charge: Patrice MOROT-SIR Centre Méditerranéen de l’Environnement Marrakech, Maroc Person in charge: Moulay Abdeslam SAMRAKANDI Institut National du Patrimoine, Tunisie Person in charge: Mourad RAMMAH Director Xavier Casanovas Texts Abdellatif MAROU, Quentin WILBAUX, Faissal CHERRADI Rehabimed project’s Scientific Commitee Brigitte Colin: UNESCO Josep Giralt: Institut Europeu de la Mediterrània (IEMed) Paul Oliver: Oxford Brookes University Photographs RehabiMed team English translation Elaine FRADLEY

Website © 2008 Col·legi d’Aparelladors i Arquitectes Tècnics de Barcelona pour le consortium Rehabimed. Bon Pastor, 5 – 08021 Barcelona, Spain ISBN : 84-87104-88-6 RehabiMed wish to encourage the reproduction of this work and the diffusion of its contents, with due mention of its source. This project is financed by the Euromed Heritage programme of the European Union and by the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional (AECI). The opinions expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Union or its member states.


1. Traditional architecture and rehabilitation in Morocco 1.1. Traditional architecture in Morocco 1.2. Social issues in the medinas 1.3. The rehabilitation of traditional architecture in Morocco 1.4. Rehabilitation in the medina of Marrakech

5 7 8 9

2. The RehabiMed project in Morocco 2.1. The RehabiMed objectives 2.2. Rehabilitation and social action: the Marrakech operation 2.3. Choosing houses for the pilot project 2.4. Principles of intervention

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3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action 3.1. Sidi Bel Abbes house 3.2. Hart Soura house 3.3. House in the Mellah

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4. Results of the pilot operation 4.1. Awareness activity in Marrakech 4.2. Impressions of the inhabitants of the rehabilitated houses 4.3. Inauguration of the houses

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Maintenance and rehabilitation manual for the Medina of Marrakech Structure and roofs Structural reinforcement of the walls Repairing the floors Waterproofing work Repairing the parapet walls

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Facilities Drainage work Plumbing work Electrical work

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Claddings Rebuilding the floors Restoring the interior renderings Restoring the façades Building false ceilingsÂ

52 53 54 55

Joinery Restoration of timber elements


Recuperation of heritage elements Restoration of awnings Recuperation of arches and inscriptions

57 58

1. Traditional architecture and rehabilitation in Morocco

Berber village in the Central High Atlas

1.1. Traditional architecture in Morocco In Morocco, traditional architecture can be divided into two main groups: rural and urban.

Casbah in the village of Ait Ben Haddou, Ouarzazate province

In the field of traditional rural architecture, there are different types of implantation: douars in the mountains, ksours and casbahs. Douars, groups of single-storey houses, are found in the valleys of the whole of the north, centre and mountain ranges of Morocco. Ksours are fortified collective implantations inside a town wall with a single gateway and a regular layout of narrow streets. Houses with a central

courtyard are usually built on two levels and are found in the pre-Saharan valleys and the oases in the south. The casbahs are fortified single-family buildings of several floors, inhabited by the tribal headman. They are found in the pre-Saharan valleys and the oases in the south. The construction materials and techniques used include earth, pisĂŠ and adobe, and stone masonry for bearing walls. Timber and reeds are used to build the floors, with rammed earth. Decorative elements are found only at the top of casbahs and on some doors of the ksours. These types of human concentration and implantation are well adapted to their physical and


1. Traditional architecture and rehabilitation in Morocco

Map of the Medina of Fez (Source: sauvegarde de la ville de Fès, rapport de synthèse, GROUPE HUIT – URBAPLAN – SIDES, 1992)

human environment. The inhabitants of this traditional architecture in the rural world are mostly farmers and seminomadic stock-keepers. Traditional urban architecture in Morocco is mainly found in the medinas of old towns. The forms and spatial layouts are the result of a combination of influences from the East and sub-Saharan Africa. This cultural crossover has generated a centuries-old urbanism that distributes the surface area between the dwelling, collective facilities and the street layout. The medina is usually surrounded by a town wall that encloses a specific,


Dar Adiyel in the Medina of Fez

hierarchical urbanism laid out around an urban nucleus. This nucleus contains religious establishments with their squares, alongside districts devoted to commerce and the craft industry. Then come the residential districts with, between them and the town wall, urbanized green spaces. In these quarters, the narrow winding streets converge on larger and more important thoroughfares that lead to the medina’s gateways in the walls. The houses turn their backs onto the street and open up onto their gardens or interior courtyards, ensuring total protection of private family life. The use terraces were

traditionally reserved for the women. The riads or traditional houses comprise rooms laid out symmetrically around the courtyard, or wast ed-dar. The façades are made up of colonnades or arches, doors, b’hou or sekaïa. Inside the rooms, windows flank the doors and alcoves. The service spaces (kitchen, wet areas, circulation) usually occupy the corners. The traditional use of these houses was marked by a degree of nomadism, in accordance with the seasons. The stairs turn around themselves, resting on the masonry walls. As a rule, these constructions do not stand higher than two floors.

1. Traditional architecture and rehabilitation in Morocco

1.2. Social issues in the medinas Moroccan independence in 1956 saw the start of migration of the richer population, moving from the medina to the new town built by and for the Europeans, who had just vacated it. This led simultaneously to the abandonment of the large residences in the medina, which, in the absence of maintenance, began to deteriorate. In the 1960s and 1970s, upheavals in the social and economic order also began to generate new conditions. They modified traditional society and economic and production systems and their values, bringing about a rural exodus towards the town. This in turn led to a general abandonment of the rural world and, consequently, its associated habitat. As a result of its fragility and lack of maintenance, this form of housing has deteriorated both very fast and easily. Due to progressive abandonment and marginalisation, the medinas have become a container for substandard housing. The new inhabitants of the cities came to live in the medinas, in the dwellings left vacant by their owners who moved to new neighbourhoods.This led to overpopulation of the medinas, with inhabitants living in deplorable conditions of overcrowding and degradation in buildings that are now dangerous due to their poor state of

The houses in the Medina of Marrakech are subject to degradation and overcrowding

conservation. This phenomenon has been taking place in most of the Maghreb’s medinas for 30 years now and is the result of a process that has three principal phases: a rapid increase in population; increased density of housing, and the pauperisation of the population. The phenomenon of over-occupation has become more marked in recent years, with the massive arrival of migrants from the rural world due to drought. Traditional structures were not designed for such intensive use, leading to the degradation and depreciation of the old models, accompanied by a breakdown of

the social fabric that gave the medina its internal coherence. Furthermore, the 20th century saw a new phenomenon starting to bring about structural changes with regard to the location of the medinas. Buildings, particularly riads, began to be bought by foreign nationals, mostly European, who rehabilitate them for use as guesthouses. This phenomenon, which might be considered very positive as a way of regenerating and revitalizing abandoned, run-down traditional architecture, has unfortunately spread without public planning or control. This absence of control


1. Traditional architecture and rehabilitation in Morocco

and follow-up by the public authorities has allowed unbridled development. Today, then, new tensions are emerging due to the social differences between the new residents and the pressures of tourism, and the local population, with radically opposite cultural and traditional attitudes. What could have served as an element of social cohesion has become a new source of tension.

1.3. The rehabilitation of traditional architecture in Morocco In the course of recent decades, Morocco has developed a good many experiences in the field of rehabilitation of traditional architecture. Most of these experiences have been initiated by the Ministry of Culture in relation to world heritage sites and nationally listed monuments or buildings. In general, they have involved a heritage-centred approach to the restoration of monuments rather than the revitalisation of this kind of architecture by means of rehabilitation. They were followed by private initiatives in the field of cultural projects or tourist-related investment, set firmly in the dynamic of rehabilitating and promoting traditional architecture. The rehabilitation or reuse of our predecessor’s buildings is a very old


The maintenance and rehabilitation of houses in the medinas are becoming increasingly important

human trait, and the examples in Morocco are many and varied. To speak of recent examples, the period of the French Protectorate saw the rehabilitation of several residences or fortifications as archaeological or ethnographic museums. This tradition continues and has grown with the multiplication of experiences in other sectors of cultural activity. Further cooperation projects between the Moroccan government and its partners, particularly in Europe and the Mediterranean, are based on traditional architecture and old urban fabrics. The tourist sector has also, in recent years,

become the foremost promoter of rehabilitation schemes in different parts of the country, particularly Marrakech and pre-Saharan areas. The rehabilitation of traditional houses inhabited by impoverished populations is far from being a concern to the public authorities, international cooperation schemes and, of course, private initiative, even though some of these residences constitute inestimable architectural and decorative values and are an essential part of the history of Moroccan architecture and art.

1. Traditional architecture and rehabilitation in Morocco

A new national initiative that considers development in all its economic, social and human dimensions has been launched. This is the INDH programme (Initiative Nationale de Développement Humain), launched by the King of Morocco in May 2005. It consists of implementing development projects throughout Moroccan territory with the inclusion of all the institutional and territorial agents and civil society. The creation of structures based on social measures and proximity is a new feature of the involvement of the State and local collectives. This type of structure should play a very important role in local life. The existence of this structure is seen as increased awareness of the role of local residents’ involvement in the management of district affairs, including the rehabilitation of traditional architecture. In the field of social action, the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism has also launched the VSB Programme (Ville Sans Bidonvilles), which works on the redevelopment of traditional housing and buildings in a poor state of repair. This programme foresees the referral of residents to welcome sites, agreed with the Wilaya (regional prefecture) and local councils.

1.4. Marrakech and the rehabilitation of its Medina Marrakech, the red city, home to artisans and traders, with its rich built heritage, is an expanding touristic and cultural destination. The apparent successes of this rapid development conceal a worrying social reality, however. The extremes of luxury and poverty exist side by side in the old quarters of the medina. With traditional houses renovated by rich owners (often foreign nationals) and overcrowded, rundown dwellings, the concept of social mix unfortunately seems likely to remain a distant dream for a long time to come. The local elites and emerging middle classes have not yet made any move to return to the traditional spaces of the medina. Over the centuries, Marrakech, essentially a cosmopolitan city, has created its social cohesion in very built-up spaces governed by the rules of proximity, respect and tolerance that derive from the Muslim religion. The architecture of the houses and riads (garden houses) of Marrakech is not a simple collage of forms; it is the perfect response of an urban population to its housing needs, in keeping with the demands of a site and a climate, using traditional materials and knowledge. The Medina of Marrakech has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. In addition

to its great mosques and monuments, it is Marrakech’s particular urban structure and the way its houses cling together to form derbs and neighbourhoods that is considered essential proof for future generations of humankind’s skill in organizing space for communal life. Despite major investments made to promote (mainly for the purposes of tourism) the old quarters and the architecture of some large residences, the Medina of Marrakech still has serious social problems. Old houses are subdivided, sometimes squatted by families without the means to aspire to decent dwellings. Far from regressing, this phenomenon actually seems to be on the increase in some disadvantaged districts. The Marrakech City Council has undertaken a programme of social measures in a disadvantaged district of Marrakech, leading to the constitution of a local outreach structure, the CASU: Coordination pour l’action sociale et d’urbanisme. This project is now being implemented, with a working team that was constituted in late 2006. Further, some 1,568 households living in fondouks and poorly maintained, even dilapidated buildings with specific traditional characteristics are the target of a programme organized by the Ministry of


1. Traditional architecture and rehabilitation in Morocco

Sarsar fondouk in the Medina of Marrakech, rehabilitated in 2007

Housing and Urbanism, the City Council and the Wilaya in the framework of the contract of VSB (Ville Sans Bidonvilles). This programme proposes to move residents to developed sites, subject to the agreement of the partners, by the year 2007. The schemes carried out by the different actors involved in the housing sector and their partners have not yet been extended to traditional buildings in the Medina of Marrakech. The matter is now being studied and will probably serve to include the Medina’s housing problems in the VSB programme. The RehabiMed pilot operation, applying its specific method, will serve as a model for intervention to the various actors in local development, both institutional and regional.


2. The RehabiMed project in Morocco

Place Jamaa el-Fna, intangible world heritage

2.1. The objectives of RehabiMed The RehabiMed project forms part of the Euromed Heritage programme of the European Commission. It is a cultural programme that came into being after the Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean Conference in 1995 with the aim of creating a space of collaboration and peace in the Mediterranean basin. RehabiMed’s highly ambitious international objective is to promote rehabilitation activity in all Mediterranean countries as a factor of sustainable development. Its departure

point is thorough knowledge of the value of traditional architectural heritage, obtained during the preceding CORPUS project, and the problems it represents. Promoting rehabilitation activity is of particular significance, as it is a subsector with great economic potential and a clear indicator of development. We must not forget that in Europe, investment in building rehabilitation and maintenance accounts for 50% of the construction sector’s activity, whereas in countries in the south and east of the Mediterranean it is less than 10%.

These actions have a twofold value. They contribute to improving the living environment of inhabitants and to preserving the historic and cultural identity of traditional architectural heritage that is rapidly gaining in value. It is living heritage in that it provides shelter for millions of families and stands at the very heart of the present-day city. It is therefore subject to great economic and social pressure, as well as finding it difficult to respond to modern housing needs.


2. The RehabiMed project in Morocco

The objective of RehabiMed is, then, to find a path and establish a Method that make it easier to strike a balance between improving inhabitants’ living environment and preserving heritage, with reference to the three pillars of sustainability (economic, social and environmental). This process must always involve all the agents of rehabilitation and their participation (politicians, professionals and inhabitants).

2.2. Rehabilitation and social action: the operation in Marrakech

The Method proposed by RehabiMed addresses the rehabilitation of traditional architecture resituated in a process of revitalisation and regeneration of the territory. It is an intervention in the physical environment and the population that it shelters, by guaranteeing adaptation in keeping with today’s needs. Rehabilitation has to be a thorough, planned process of transformation with mid- and long-term objectives. From a more technical point of view, the RehabiMed Method sets out to order and systematize the phases of the rehabilitation process (orientation, diagnosis, strategy, action and followup) with the identification of tools and instruments (technical, administrative and legal) needed to manage and develop them. At the same time, it also presents criteria for reflection on the problems and the strategies that need to be implemented to guarantee the success of the process.

Why choose Marrakech to address rehabilitation centring on social aspects? Our knowledge of the Medina of Marrakech and the city’s complex set of problems is the answer to this question. Strong real-estate pressure with property speculation on a scale unknown in other Maghreb countries give it a singular value with a range of social situations and major contrasts between the riads run by tourism agencies and guesthouses on the one hand, and, on the other, the homes of local inhabitants, with great heritage value and very poor conditions of construction and habitability.


When drafting the content of the RehabiMed project, in 2001, four vectors of rehabilitation were chosen and addressed: Rehabilitation and urban landscape (Lefkara, Cyprus); Rehabilitation and artisans (Cairo, Egypt); Rehabilitation and sustainable tourism (Kairouan, Tunisia) and Rehabilitation and social action.

There are other places in the Mediterranean where social action would have been just as appropriate as in Marrakech, but several months of work and completion of the pilot operation have proved it an excellent choice. The experience is

unique in technical terms, but most of all at the social level, as the results show. The skill and experience in the organization of international projects of the Centre Méditerranéen de l’Environnement de Marrakech, responsible for the Moroccan partnership and the involvement of the Inspection des Monuments Historiques de Marrakech, and of the Ministry of Culture, which undertook all of RehabiMed’s technical work in Morocco, guaranteed the quality and excellent results of the actions carried out and ensure that they will continue. The participation and commitment on the part of the inhabitants and local and national authorities have made this experience exemplary. The implementation of the RehabiMed process took the form of several phases. A seminar about Rehabilitation and social action was held at Marrakech City Hall from 26 March to 3 April 2006, with the participation of more than 50 experts of 15 different nationalities. Khadija El Feddy, a local representative, represented the City of Marrakech at the opening session and Omar El Jazuly, Mayor of Marrakech, took part in the closing session. The practical work of the seminar dealt with the houses that were to be the target of the pilot operation. These practical exercises served to trigger reflection on the social and heritage aspects of each

2. The RehabiMed project in Morocco

v house. Work carried out at the seminar produced excellent working materials for the local team. The participants proved to be very aware of the specific problem of overpopulated houses. This documentary base provided the starting point for diagnosis of the buildings, and the workshops organized with the participation of the houses’ inhabitants during the diagnosis phase and throughout the rehabilitation work provided in-depth knowledge that enabled us to adapt the projects and the work to their real needs and to help to improve social cohesion by means of rehabilitation.

Practical exercises in the houses. RehabiMed seminar.

2.3. Choosing houses for the pilot project In the case of the Medina of Marrakech, we looked for three houses that met the criterion of repetitiveness—that is, that would enable the work carried out during the pilot operation to become an example and a model that could easily be repeated on other houses and similar situations. The choice of three different districts allowed us to establish three singular yet complementary models. The houses included in the pilot operation for Marrakech were therefore chosen according to criteria of heritage and social issues. It was also decided to choose

untransferable properties to prevent subsequent property speculation with the work carried out as part of the RehabiMed project. Sidi Bel Abbes and Hart Soura houses are the property of the Ministry of Habous; they are therefore untransferable, which guarantees that the investment will continue to benefit social measures. These two houses (like numerous Habous properties) are also of very real heritage interest. Their structures and decoration have remained unchanged since they were ceded by their previous owners, who thereby prevented resale and

preserved the buildings’ integrity. The house in the Mellah, like all those in this quarter, is not a freehold property. It is what is called, in Morocco, zina: ownership is limited to the built property, and the land is state-owned. The house situated in the Sidi Bel Abbes district, more recent and with simpler architectural elements, is exemplary for its dimensions, structure and location near one of the city’s main sanctuaries. It is particularly interesting for its subdivision. The same problem applies to the house in the Hart Soura quarter, which also


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represents a critical situation in an older heritage residence. The use of floor arches to span spaces (such as the large salon) is certainly the mark of ancient architecture using traditional construction techniques adapted to a region that did not produce timber for construction. The development of means of transport in the last century allowed importation to Marrakech of both cedar from the Middle Atlas and foreign soft wood. This led gradually to the replacement of the traditional technique of floor arches by timber structures: logs and reeds or beading (ikki) or rafters and boards (warka or geizat).

The house in the Mellah quarter completes the picture: it stands in one of the city’s most run-down areas (the old Jewish quarter), is the most densely populated of the chosen houses and its more fragile architecture obliged us to come up with more innovative solutions than elsewhere.

2.4. Principles of intervention In order to preserve the characteristics of the traditional Mediterranean architecture that make the selected houses so valuable, the operations carried out in the

House in ZaouĂŻa Abbassia

Hart Soura house, Medina of Marrakech


The Mellah, Medina of Marrakech

2. The RehabiMed project in Morocco

framework of the pilot project respected a series of basic rules as regards both the architecture and the materials used. The architecture of traditional houses in the Medina of Marrakech centres on the interior space, the wast ed-dar, a private space, often marked symbolically by the presence of a central tap and planted gardens. The overexploitation of available spaces and the subdivision of numerous houses in the medina (including those selected for the pilot project) often threaten the integrity of this essential element. One of the principles of intervention was therefore to restore, as far as possible, the integrity of this central space and its formal unity. This involved restoring the tiles around the top of the outer walls or crowning the lintels of the galleries around the wast ed-dar, standardizing the openings (arches or straight lintels), balustrades, renderings and ceilings, and installing unitary flooring but above all restoring the communal spaces that had been gradually privatized. With a view to restoring the identity and the integrity of each house as a specific architectural entity, within a built-up coherent urban fabric, particular attention was paid to the walls around

Location of the project houses in the Medina of Marrakech

the terrace-roofs, both to guarantee the privacy of the terraces and out of respect for the neighbours. Though the custom traditionally prohibiting men from using the terraces is widely ignored, it was imperative to try to adapt, wherever possible, the solution formerly reserved for middle-class residences: the construction of an enclosure to coincide with the party walls. Construction and rehabilitation using traditional techniques and materials requires a great deal of care and respect for drying times between the different

interventions. Preference was given to using salvaged materials (bricks, logs, timber beams, lintels, frames) and the earth produced by removing, stripping or partially demolishing structures (from roof terraces, for example). In all cases, lime was used in preference to cement, as a binding agent in mortars and renderings, and for waterproofing work. In general, we avoided using reinforced concrete techniques that seriously spoil the traditional character of the medina. The work carried out on the pilot site in Marrakech had to be exemplary in this respect.


2. The RehabiMed project in Morocco

The specific interventions in the pilot project to improve the living conditions of inhabitants also followed certain principles. The first aim was safety— ensuring that walls and roofs did not fall down. The house’s bearing structures— walls, columns, lintels, traditional floor slabs—therefore had to be restored or consolidated. Then the terraces had to be waterproofed, respecting traditional methods. Basic facilities for each dwelling had to include at least one tap and an electrical power supply. Given the extreme density of population of the chosen houses, the sanitary installations had to be communal. Efforts were made to integrate these vital elements without spoiling the structure of the houses (visible installations, minimal chasing, clear identification of interventions using specific materials, etc.). The aim here was to safeguard these constructions in the hope that the social problems may one day be addressed by another method than subdivision and that these houses will be used as they deserve.


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action 3.1. Sidi Bel Abbes house Number 13, derb Taht Khachba, Zaouia Abassia district Location Situated in the north of the medina, the house forms part of a series of properties adjoining the zaouia of Sidi Bel Abbes. North of the house is the esplanade of the zaouia, the tomb of the saint and the cemetery of Sidi Bel Abbes, which stands at the centre of the district. To the south is a housing district built against the old Almoravid rampart that has been included in the city but whose layout is still visible in the plot division. The route from the zaouia to the medina leads through the draper’s souk; it is a street enclosed by arches and bordered by arcades that protect the artisan’s shops. History Sidi Bel Abbes is the only example of the city’s extension beyond the Almoravid ramparts. It was the Alaouite Sultan, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah (1757-1790), who built ramparts around this district, which developed mainly at the time of the Saadi sultans (notably Abou Fares). In the panoramic view of Marrakech proposed

by the Danish consul Host in 1768, the district is shown surrounded by ramparts. The report by Paul Lambert also confirms that the work was carried out by this sultan and can be dated to the beginning of his reign, circa 1760. The district of fine residences adjoining the zaouia of Sidi Bel Abbes, including the house chosen for the RehabiMed project, may have formed part of the project to revitalize the zaouia and integrate it into the urban perimeter protected by the ramparts. The construction of the complex of buildings that now form the zaouia of Sidi Bel Abbes (mausoleum, mosque, madrassa,


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

hammam, etc.) is also attributed to Sultan Sidi Muhammad Ben Abdallah. The house can probably therefore be dated to the late 18th century. Socio-economic analysis Owner: Habous Inhabitants: 7 dwellings and 37 people Typology: traditional house with an unplanted courtyard (Dar) Particularity: independent douirya Construction date (estimated): 18th century Useful surface area: 162 m² Number of floors: GF + 1st floor + terraceroof Bearing system: Uprights and beams in the courtyard and bearing wall on the exterior Original materials: Earth, brick, timber, glazed tiles and lime-earth mortar Added materials: Concrete, concrete block and cement rendering Facilities: a single toilet, no water (supply cut off due to unpaid bills) and existence of an electricity system (outdated installation) / 2 meters.

courtyard, was accessible only to members of the family; the master of the house had the douirya to himself. This independent apartment in which he received guests on professional or private visits had its own stairway, entrance to which stood in the winding corridor that protects the house from curious eyes. Today, the opening up of a new entrance to this stairway on the main street meant that the old douirya could be converted into a completely independent apartment. Only the terrace-roofs remain communal. The most convenient entrance is that of the douirya (an open staircase); two other entrances to the house comprise simple pieces of timber anchored in a corner formed by two walls, leading to a trapdoor. The douirya overhangs the winding entrance hall (housing the only WC) and a wide section of the street. To cover the street and provide a plinth for the apartment, five fired-brick arches were built. They are joined to the ends by two groined vaults that support the rooms on the first floor, with barrel vaults at the centre that join the arches supporting the wast ed-dar of the douirya.

Architectural and architectonic analysis This is a courtyard house with a douirya (small house) situated on the first floor, a classic configuration in Marrakech. The house, laid out around its inner


The actual house is built on two floors. The first floor, partially covering the shops in the main street, has a larger useful surface area than the ground floor. A stairway in the corner of the courtyard leads to the

gallery, which, on the first floor, provides access to the various rooms. The gallery, only enclosed on three sides of the wast ed-dar, is completed by a trompel’œil effect on the party wall that closes in the courtyard on its fourth side. The architecture of these galleries, comprising square pillars that support broad timber lintels on both levels, is typical of AraboAndalusian heritage. This is a typical late example of the evolution of the architectural model that developed in the western Mediterranean. Analysis of construction and structural elements Although quite old (almost 250 years old), the construction is in a good state of repair. The walls are built of fired bricks bound with lime and cement mortar. The ceilings are mostly visible (particularly in the galleries), comprising rafters and cedar boarding (warka or geizat). As cedar was quite rare and expensive in the Marrakech region, particularly at the time of construction, the house was probably built for a wealthy family that could at least afford to have cedar transported from the Middle Atlas. The horizontal bearing structures were built of floor slabs consolidated by lime. The terraces were made waterproof by compacting lime into the slab, maintaining the slopes to

3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

allow rainwater to drain into the streets. On the first floor, the gallery is surrounded by a few remaining elements of timber railings (meshrebeeyeh). The lintels were protected by a projection of tiles (three courses) that frames the courtyard. Pathology It is difficult to check the structure and the state of conservation of the foundations in an old inhabited house. The bearing walls did not seem to present any major cracking or any greater degradation than differential settlement. There were several cracks in the faรงades in the street and the derb. These superficial fissures only affected the rendering. Other cracking in the corners is the sign of poor cohesion of construction materials. The floor of the entrance hallway was beaten earth. The floor of the courtyard had been patched up with cement. The walls and pillars were affected by rising damp that was causing the bricks and bonding agents to break up. The renderings were coming away from the masonry and no longer provided protection. Poor restoration of masonry and renderings had weakened the wall structure, particularly in the entrance corridor and the west wall beneath the gallery.

Construction system


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

The walls of the bedrooms had been repaired many times, rendered with different materials and textures. The problems were however superficial and limited to secondary cracking that affected the plaster coat, except the southern bearing wall adjacent to the ruined neighbouring house, the piled-up rubble of which pressed against it causing capillary percolation. The joist and batten-board floors in the entrance and the entire west gallery had been damaged by fire, and the timber elements were no longer solid. The cedar overhangs supporting the structural first floor were becoming detached in places and cracking due to the effects of insolation and precipitation. The open spaces between the pillars in the north and south galleries had been sealed up by pseudo-partition walls of reed and plaster, preventing ventilation of the internal spaces and producing condensation that was harmful to the timber in the floor and renderings. Study for the fitting out of spaces


On the first floor, the walls and pillars in the galleries had cracked render coats. Some of the balustrades were about to fall over due to damage to the timber. The awning that covered the courtyard was

3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

much deteriorated and many of the tiles were loose. On the roof terraces, the waterproofing layer was full of cracks. Cement patches not bonded to the original waterproof lime had produced leaks in the first floor ceiling. Rehabilitation work Initial work concentrated on consolidating the building’s bearing structures and waterproofing the terrace-roofs. The floor slabs had to be removed from the bearing structures, some bearing logs replaced and then the traditional slabs rebuilt using reeds, earth and tamped lime. In some of the old ceilings built using the warka or geizat system, it was necessary to replace boards that were rotten beneath coats of paint and the accumulated soot, then rework the traditional slab system (earth and tamped lime).

The water supply system and the drainage network were completely replaced. Two toilets were installed in the entrance hall. All the sanitary installations were clad with white earthenware tiles. The house’s electricity supply was completely renewed with at least one lighting point and one socket per dwelling. The first floor balustrade was completely restored. Wood mamounis or trellis screens were proposed to restore a little privacy between the dwellings on the galleries, replacing the makeshift structures that had been put up. In the inhabited rooms, the renderings were repaired and the floors of the communal areas were laid with cement tiles.

A protective parapet was built on the wall that juts out over the street. It was rendered and painted in the same colour as the existing wall. The parapet wall in the courtyard was completely restored and slightly raised as a safety measure. The row of tiles protecting the timber lintels was replaced.


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

Before works

During works

After works


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

3.2. Hart Soura house Numbers 5 and 6, derb Darqaoua, Hart Soura district

of Ali Ben Youssef mosque that the first public fountain stood and the first latrines connected to the first khettaras (underground drain) were built.

Facilities: there are six sanitary installations (five private); three taps (one private) and an electricity network. Architectural and architectonic analysis

Location Situated in the most central part of the medina, this house stands at the end of a short cul-de-sac or derb that bears the name of an important religious brotherhood. The house is in the immediate vicinity of Ben Youssef madrassa and the central Ben Youssef mosque, oft modified and rebuilt, that bears the name of the Almoravid sultan. The entrance to the derb is from a main street linking the small square in front of Hart Soura mosque to the Ahl Fes street and the rear of the madrassa. History The Hart Soura district is one of the oldest in the medina. As is often the case, the district is named after the mosque. Soura was the sister of Sultan Ali Ben Youssef, son of Youssef ben Tachefine who is said to be the founder of Marrakech. Even today, Ben Youssef mosque, like the famous Saadi madrassa nearby, bears the name of the builder of the mosque which has marked the district’s urban fabric. It is almost certain that the original urban centre stood here. It is at the foot


This house stands at the end of a short cul-de-sac or derb that bears the name Derkaoua, an important religious brotherhood in Morocco and North Africa as a whole. Did it serve as a zaouia, as present-day occupants and local people claim? There are no documents to prove this, but we adopted the opinion of local residents and consider it was so. Socio-economic analysis Owner: Habous / Heirs / Owner Inhabitants: 11 dwellings, 49 people Typology: traditional courtyard house (riad) Particularities: Two stone domes and some arcades Contemporary extensions Construction date (estimated): 16th-17th centuries Useful surface area: 428 m² Number of floors: GF + mezzanine + 1st floor + terrace-roof Bearing system: bearing walls Original materials: Brick, timber, glazed tiles and lime-earth mortar Added materials: Concrete block and cement render coat

It is a house with a wast ed-dar, surrounded on three sides by rooms, with a douiryas (small house) on the first floor. The complex is rather spoiled by recent subdivisions and has probably been considerably modified over the centuries, making it difficult to reconstitute the original structure. Was it laid out as a riad (house around a garden) or as a dar (house around a non-planted courtyard)? The size of the wast ed-dar would seem to suggest the former. It was traditional to plant the interior of houses in Marrakech and many riads have been inventoried in far smaller courtyards than this. On the north and south sides, two facing galleries acted as anterooms to the larger rooms. The main room occupies the north side. Though it has been subdivided, its great height is apparent. It opened up onto the galleries via a large opening protected by a r’taj door (exterior hinges). The room is spanned by a dome of fired bricks, rendered and decorated with coloured lines and sculpted plaster medallions enhanced with bright colours. The lines and facets that form this dome

3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

Analysis of spaces and heritage elements


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

accentuate the geometry of an upsidedown hull. This type of decoration, still found today in many of the city’s houses and in the Berber constructions in the mountains, seems to be characteristic of traditional architecture in southern Morocco. But this decoration is often merely a construction of gypsum over a reed structure, used to highlight a real dome. The use of brick vaults and domes to cover spaces was probably more common at a time when the Marrakech region did not have access to construction timber and the transport of cedar was difficult and dangerous. In the south side, the remains of the former sculpted timber decoration crown the central arch of a gallery. Although the whole is rather run-down, it is evidently inspired by Arabo-Andalusian decoration. The sides of the wast ed-dar are more difficult to analyse. One gallery seems to have been walled up. A neighbouring construction occupies the centre of the west side up to the terrace level. Analysis of construction and structural elements The construction elements denote an ancient style and bear witness to the building’s age. This is the case particularly of the fired-brick vaults that form the


dome of the large hall (opposite the entrance). The dome is waterproofed with dess. The state of this work, which has evidently received no maintenance in decades, is proof of the quality of construction work and the care taken by its builders.

Inside the house, some stretches of wall and pillars presented signs of rising damp near floor level, affecting the bonding of the masonry.

High quality finishes are also found in the arches forming the galleries, and great care was taken in the choice of the timber logs covering the first floor, the house’s former lofts.

Whitish stains on the vault in the old main hall were apparently caused by rainwater seepage.

Despite the run-down appearance of the whole, now subdivided and disfigured by parasitic constructions, the old construction and structural elements have retained their bearing qualities, though they do require serious maintenance work.

The only defects in the four façades of the courtyard were in the renderings.

The walls of mezzanines three and six were the most affected by rising damp. The render coats were coming away and the bonding mortars no longer held the masonry in place. Some ceilings had been replaced by plastic sheeting. On the terrace floors, the deterioration of the waterproofing work had led to seepage.

Pathology The antiquity of the house and the quality of the materials used testify to the quality of the construction. The only exterior façade of the house overlooking the derb had been given a cement render coat and did not present any structural defects. The arches over the alleyway, however, were in danger of falling down.

The structure of the stairways was weakened throughout (the timber supporting the structure and masonry), with cracking in the dess render coats. The nosing of the steps had been worn away in places. Rehabilitation work The first step was to negotiate, family by family, dwelling by dwelling, the restructuring and redistribution of spaces available to free up the central

3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

courtyard (wast ed-dar) of the parasitic constructions that had been built there. This involved some difficult choices with regard to heritage in order to improve living conditions without in any way reducing what were already very small private spaces. Section by section, the bearing structures had to be consolidated and the waterproofing work of the terraceroofs restored. The floor slabs were removed from the bearing structures, some bearing logs were replaced and then the traditional floors were rebuilt using reeds, earth and tamped lime. The mezzanines were rearranged or enlarged. A stairway was rebuilt for greater ease of access to hitherto unused rooms at roof level to make up for the loss of habitable spaces in the courtyard.

solutions were considered: placing the sanitary installations on the upper floors, near the front door, or connecting the house to public networks in other streets. Test boring was carried out on some neighbouring properties. The final solution was to raise the level of the courtyard by about one metre and build a communal prefabricatedplumbing unit independently of the traditional structures. The electrical power supply was entirely renovated to provide at least one lighting point and one socket per dwelling. The render coats were reapplied in all the inhabited rooms. The floors of the communal areas were laid with cement tiles. A sunken garden was created in the middle of the courtyard to maintain the greenery within the complex and protect the existing tree.

The water mains system was completely replaced, as was the drainage network. The main problem presented by the rehabilitation of this house was how to find a way of piping sewerage to the public drainage network. The level of the courtyard was 80 cm below the level of the service pipe in Derqaoua derb. Various


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

Before works

During works

After works


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

3.3. House in the Mellah Numbers 21 and 22, derb Zamrane, Mellah district Location This house is situated in the old Jewish quarter of Marrakech. It presents a quite different set of characteristics to the preceding houses. Like the street and the district in which it stands, it is far more recent than houses 1 and 2. One of the first interventions of the Saadi sultans in the city of Marrakech was the creation of a Jewish quarter, set apart from the rest of the medina. The district, which later acquired the name Mellah, stands to the south of the medina and to the east of the casbah, “near Bab Aghmat, so that the Jews were separated from the Moors” (Marmol, Descripción general de Africa, Grenade, 1573, p. 59). The house is situated in the east of the Jewish quarter and was probably part of an extension built in the late 19th century. It is laid out along a north-south line that represents the traditional separation between the area of housing in the east, the cemetery (mihara) and the gardens adjacent to the district (Jnane el Afia), on the west side. The north is taken up by the main part of


the district with its swastika floor plan and its straight-lined streets. In the south, the district of Berrima stands around the mosque of the same name (1852). History While the Saadi Sultan Moulay Abdallah allocated a vast tract of land east of the casbah to the Jews, the parcelling of the central Mellah district, as it appears today, probably dates from the middle of the 19th century, with east- and westward extensions built some 40 years later. It was in around 1557-1558 that, according to Jewish tradition, Rabbi Mardochée b. ‘Attar was commissioned by the new sultan to supervise the works. The date 1562-1563, given by Ifrânî, corresponds to the end of work. The Mellah had two entrances: “The Jewish quarter surrounded by walls with two gateways: one led to its own land and the other, communicating with the city, was flanked by guards. By way of population it had some 6,000 people and many synagogues.” In the notes that accompany his engraving, Adriaen Matham also mentions

the Mellah: “In the city there is a place for the Jews, where they all live together, surrounded by a wall which is closed, mainly at night; and this place is so large around that it could in its own right pass as a rather considerable town...” (Adriaen Matham, “Palatium magni regis Maroci in Barbaria”, engraving, 1646, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.) The population of the Mellah progressed slowly after the Saadi period. From 500 inhabitants in 1666, it grew to 2,000 in 1804, 6,000 in 1867 and 14,000 in the early 20th century. Furthermore, in 1890 the Sultan gave the Jewish community land to extend a quarter where the inhabitants were too cramped. Three hundred new houses were built there: “Moulay Hassan [...] extended the limits of their Mellah, with the walls around it. Henceforth they enclosed, to the west, a former piece of wasteland which, divided among various notables, was built with tall houses to form the Mellah Jedid quarter; to the east, the kitchen garden of Jnan el Afia, still known now as ‘La Bira’, was occupied by the poor population.” These extensions can be seen in the plot division of the quarter on the photogrammetric map made in 1987. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Jews left Morocco’s old mellahs en masse to emigrate to Israel. Today, there are only

3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

in the region of 300 Jews in Marrakech as opposed to the almost 15,000 who lived there 100 years ago. Most of the abandoned houses were recovered or squatted by poor Muslim families, making the district one of the poorest in the medina. Today, projects are being studied to renovate the district, now renamed Hay Salam. Socio-economic analysis Address: Derb Zamrane, no. 21/22, Hay Essalam (Mellah), Bahia Owner: Private (zina) Inhabitants: 13 dwellings; 62 people Typology: traditional Jewish house with an unplanted courtyard (Dar) with douirya Particularity: private property (zina) Construction date (estimated): late 19th century Useful surface area: 490 m² Number of floors: GF + 1st floor + roof terrace Bearing system: uprights and beams for the courtyard and bearing walls in the exterior Original materials: Brick, timber, glazed tiles and lime-earth mortar Added materials: cement rendering Facilities: two sanitary installations, no water (supply cut off due to unpaid bills) and an outdated electricity network with a meter

Architectural and architectonic analysis The site comprises a house with wast eddar and a small annexed dwelling at the rear of the courtyard. The entrance is at the corner in keeping with the classical distribution of houses in Morocco, both in the context of the medina and in the rural world. All the rooms on the ground and first floors open up onto the courtyard. Very recent partition walls have been built in the galleries to create private exterior spaces in front of the numerous dwellings created by the subdivision of this former patrician dwelling. The current state of the house is a perfect example of the transformation by means of successive divisions of old residences and riads in the medina. The phenomenon of overcrowding and pauperisation of traditional heritage spaces can be found all over the medina. There are no major differences between traditional Jewish and Muslim houses in the medina. They have the same structure on the ground floor and a first floor surrounded by galleries leading into living spaces. They employ the same materials and decorations of capitals and lintels and false lintels (lizar). The motifs in the railings of the first floor galleries perhaps take their inspiration more from European models

(turned/symbolized balustrades) than the traditional meshrebeeyeh screens. The specificity of the Mellah in architectural terms lies rather in the form of the streets and alleyways, and in the use of windows and balconies onto the street, totally absent from Muslim quarters. Analysis of construction and structural elements The construction system is characteristic of the late 19th century. The walls are mostly built of fired-brick masonry with thick joints of lime and cement mortar. The galleries are supported by round-section masonry columns. These graceful columns represent a simplification of the traditional model of octagonal pillars, probably in a reference to the marble columns of the classic Arabo-Andalusian constructions. Their relative fragility has caused obvious problems, requiring consolidation in the form of common-brick supports in parts of the gallery. Some ceilings are built of logs and reeds and then plastered. Others are made of painted warka or geizat, probably made of cedar, though fir began to be imported in the second half of the 19th century.


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

The terraces are waterproofed by floor slabs consolidated with lime. The current slopes are exaggerated and denote the superposition of successive layers whose weight could be a danger in the absence of maintenance to structures that were not designed to bear these loads. Overall, the house is not in danger of collapse, but serious replacement and consolidation work is necessary to the horizontal structures. Pathology

Spatial analysis of the house

The extent of rising damp in the walls on the ground floor, caused by the absence of a drainage network, raised some doubts as to the state of the foundations. Existing cracking only seemed to affect the rendering, however, and the general state of the bearing structures seemed quite satisfactory. In the part of the faรงade around the main door, some lime rendering had become detached and there were signs of capillary action. The other part had been given a new cement render coat, but the problem of rising damp persists and is attacking the wall. The biggest problem on the ground floor was the damp in the walls, producing


major damage to the render coats, which are all detached or crumbling, and the masonry. All of the floors were damaged and patched. On the first floor, the floors were damaged. The rendering of walls and pillars in the galleries was cracked. The gypsum ceilings had largely fallen in, revealing much weakened structures. The wrought-iron and timber balustrades were dislodged from their housing, particularly in the north-east corner, and were in danger of falling. On the roof terraces, the slope form had subsided and was marked by deep cracks. The waterproofing work was damaged and the slopes were misshapen by subsidence, causing puddles to form. The stairs to the first floor had been rebuilt in cement. The treads, risers and timber nosing were all in a state of collapse. Rehabilitation work Work began by waterproofing the terrace-roofs. The floor slabs had to be removed from the bearing structures, some bearing logs replaced and then the traditional slabs rebuilt using reeds, earth and tamped lime, restoring the

3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

slope to drain runoff towards the street. A parapet was built for extra safety above the wall jutting out over the street, the neighbouring property to the south and the ruined building to the west. It was rendered and painted the same colour as the existing wall. The parapet above the courtyard was fully restored and slightly raised as a safety measure. The row of tiles protecting the timber lintels was rebuilt in the traditional style of houses in the Medina of Marrakech. On the first floor, some rooms were completely restored and their false ceilings of gypsum rebuilt.

The render coats were reapplied in all the inhabited rooms. The floors of the communal areas were laid with cement tiles. The balustrade on the first floor was restored, as were some especially damaged items of joinery. Wood mamounis or trellis screens were proposed to restore a little privacy between the dwellings on the galleries, replacing the makeshift structures that occupants had put up. Mamounis were also installed on the ground floor to separate the communal spaces from the different dwellings.

Work on the ground floor involved consolidating the bearing structures and restoring the uniformity of the supports (columns beneath the gallery in the courtyard), some of which had been rebuilt using solid masonry units. The water system was completely refitted, as was the drainage network. Toilets were installed on the ground floor and terrace level. These sanitary installations were tiled with white earthenware. The electrical power supply was entirely renovated to provide at least one lighting point and one socket per dwelling.


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action


3. The pilot operation in Marrakech. Rehabilitation and social action

Before works

During works

After works


4. Results of the pilot operation

4.1 Awareness-raising activity in Marrakech. “My home can be a little paradise too� The awareness-raising day for children with the aim of familiarizing upcoming generations with traditional heritage and rehabilitation work was carried out in the house in the Mellah district. One of the activities organized was a painting competition during which the children drew and painted the changes they had seen since rehabilitation. For the organizers and parents, the biggest change was the possibility of organizing the activity in the inner courtyard of


the house, with the peace of mind represented by being in a safe place, with no danger of a roof tile falling or a floor falling in. For the children, this grey, abandoned space had become a space full of life and, most importantly, colour. Altogether, 20 children aged between 5 and 12 painted various details of the courtyard. This is the centre of the house, around which are distributed the rooms, currently occupied by different families. The inner courtyard is a communal space for activities that cannot be carried out inside the individual dwellings. For the children, this is a space for interrelation, a

4. Results of the pilot operation

The children, hard at work

social space inside the larger house that symbolizes the perfect counterpoint to the privacy of the individual homes. The activity was more of a party than a painting competition, and the children decided to paint things—and themselves—making full use of colour rather than limiting themselves to an objective look at heritage. The blue balustrades became orange, yellow or green, and the white walls were painted in every hue. This is an interesting way of seeing, more in keeping with feelings and moods than a desire to capture physical reality. For the first time, they saw that their home could also be a little paradise,

Satisfaction with the finished result

a place of safety, comfort and beauty. The comments made by parents and local residents who dropped in throughout the activity were more than eloquent. They continually referred to the peace of mind given by having a clean, private space that was also safe. They stressed the “new” beauty of a building that had always seemed to them to be old and dilapidated, with no values worth mentioning, much less preserving.

changes become increasingly apparent as time goes by, it is also important for them to learn to appreciate traditional heritage. For many of them, living in the Medina in a traditional dwelling is a problem to be solved. Learning to appreciate and conserve heritage ought to be included in primary education, teaching them to appreciate the legacy of their own culture. Living in the Medina in a traditional dwelling should cease to be a stigma; all homes can be little paradises.

The results of this activity confirm the need to carry out further awarenessraising interventions for children. Due to their age, they are excluded from the rehabilitation process, and though the


4. Results of the pilot operation

4.2. Impressions of the inhabitants of the rehabilitated houses Note: The following comments express the feelings of the inhabitants interviewed as work advanced, until completion. These impressions should be placed in the context of comparison with the situation before work.


Abdelaziz Chakroun (46 years) Our children are happy to have a place to play at home.

Mina Alwane (46 years) Now we can walk around barefoot.

Driss Balafdil (34 years) Summer nights are great—we don’t have to worry about treading on the scorpions, lizards and mice that used to live here.

Raji Abdellatif (48 years) This summer I was able to shower at home and wash my children, who are now cleaner than they were before.

4. Results of the pilot operation

Aïcha (40 years) We won’t have to form chains to bail out rainwater any more.

Saadia (32 years) Now I can invite people round.

Habiba (64 years) We can now think about having parties at home, including the circumcision celebrations for my grandsons.

Ba-Ali Siabdallah (54 years) This will be the first festival of sacrifice we’ve had in a normal setting where we could hang up our own lamb. The children will be able to enjoy the festival in a clean setting like all the others, and we shall have the barbecue in the courtyard.

Halima (38 years) Now the neighbours come round to visit our house. We are delighted and feel more respected.

Azzrabi Said (44 years) Now we can put potted plants out, the new decoration makes it worthwhile. My bedroom is lighter, I’m not depressed any more. The air feels clean.


4. Results of the pilot operation

Rabia (78 years) Rain will be welcome now.

Fatima (50 years) I no longer have to change my children several times a day. They can play without me worrying about the clothes I have to wash. And I can sit and work at my weaving.

Eddahbi My Driss (46 years) I’m not ashamed of coming home any more. My children are proud of their house. They have their friends round to play in the courtyard, it’s more reassuring and I don’t have to worry. We can keep an eye on them.

Halima (38 years) Now I can put out the throws and materials I bought recently without having to worry about the children bringing dust and dirt into the house. Everything is clean now.

Milouda Aït bach (52 years) I spend more time at home now and I take more pleasure in preparing the tea. Things don’t smell musty now. I was afraid that my grandchildren would get asthma because of the damp and dust, but not any more. May God reward you.

Fatima Miaad (40 years) Before, no one took any interest in us or came to see us. After the restoration work, we have more visitors and all the neighbours have been round to congratulate us and ask us how we managed it. We feel we are respected, because cleanness gives value.


4. Results of the pilot operation

Latifa Bijanti (42 years) If I’m cold, all I have to do is close the door, because the doors and windows close properly.

Asbiyaa Rakoch (42 years) I can hang things on the walls to decorate my bedroom. The walls are lighter now, and the damp has disappeared.

Rafiqa (30 years) We don’t have to queue to use the toilet any more. I sweep and wash the floor just once instead of 2 or 3 times a day. I enjoy staying at home more.

Bousalem Mohamed (70 years) (Blind) Sadly, I can’t see the work, but my children and grandchildren will enjoy it. I can imagine the transformation—it seems that there aren’t any holes in the courtyard now. The toilets are bigger, so I’m not afraid of falling over, and the bad smells have gone.


4. Results of the pilot operation

housing policies that evict inhabitants and allow buildings to fall into disrepair or the hands of tourism concerns. Allowing this policy to continue would mean the death of the historic centre.

The Mayor of the Medina talking to local residents

4.3 Inauguration An opening ceremony of the rehabilitation work took place on 11 September to mark the culmination of the pilot operation. The event was organized by the Centre Méditerranéen de l’Environnement de Marrakech (CMEM), with the collaboration of local residents. The aim was to bring together the inhabitants of the three rehabilitated buildings, local authorities and representatives of the Moroccan Government ministries involved in recovering heritage and housing.


The event, signposted by a large information panel, also served to show how RehabiMed’s objective is to change the present-day dynamic of interventions in the Medina of Marrakech, currently directed at the rehabilitation of traditional houses for tourist accommodation: luxury riâds and hôtels de charme. The authorities have seen how RehabiMed’s intervention dignifies living space, bringing ventilation and installations to family dwellings. The rooms in which they live are produced by the subdivision of large original residences. Although this is a small intervention, it is also a real, innovative example that presents an alternative to

The comments included here show just how pleased the inhabitants are. At first, they did not believe that the buildings could be improved or that, once rehabilitated, they would be allowed to carry on living there. Local authorities and the Ministry of Housing have discovered a new course of action in which social aspects are a priority. They have also understood that it does not take huge sums of money to recover the Medina: modest financial resources can reverse the present-day trend of degradation and gentrification, at the same time promoting social balance and cohesion.

Maintenance and rehabilitation manual for the Medina of Marrakech



Structure and roofs

Any walls that had large cracks or were structurally weakened due to the wearing effect of time were reinforced and restored using timber or brick masonry.

Structural reinforcement of the walls

· Removal of cladding and examination of cracking in corners · Filling in with brick · Removal of cladding and examination of cracking caused by concentration of loads

· Repair of cracking using traditional masonry · Crumbling of mortar and partial collapse of the wall · Reinforcement of the wall structure and the traditional rendering

· Removal of cladding and examination of the wall structure


· Removal of cladding and preservation of heritage elements · Consolidation of rammed earth walls using a common brick partition


Structure and roofs

Repairing the floors

· Initial state of the floor · Removal of the ceiling and lightening of the all-in material · Repair of the walls that support the joists

· Laying the joists · The layers of reeds · Implementing the all-in layer

· Making the lime mortar screed, 2/3 sand and 1/3 lime · Smoothing the lime mortar screed, 1/2 sand and 1/2 lime · Lime waterproofing work


After removing the faulty waterproofing work, the stonemason substitutes damaged beams and consolidates the supporting masonry. This horizontal framework is given a roof battening of reeds overlaid with a slope built of earth, sand and a little lime; then comes a screed of concrete with a mix of clayey sand and lime, topped by a coat of trowelled lime.

Structure and roofs

Waterproofing work

The waterproofing work is carried out using lime which is well sifted before being left to ferment for a while. The mason then removes the existing waterproofing layer, which has to be replaced after repairing the surface beneath. When the lime has been well mixed, it is spread out over the roof and then smoothtrowelled.

· Sifting the lime · Sprinkling the lime · The lime is left to ferment in plastic sacks

· Removal of the faulty waterproofing work · Recreating the waterproofed slope · Preparing the lime mortar

· Levelling, preparing the slope and laying the first layer of lime · Rubbing down and smoothing the lime · Finished appearance


Structure and roofs

Repairing the parapet walls

· Repairing the parapets using traditional brick masonry · Smooth-trowelling the lime mortar · Lime-based waterproofing work

· Initial state of a damaged parapet · Repairing the parapets with bricks and earth-lime mortar · Smoothing the surface

· Smoothing the lime · The completed parapet · Completed work on the parapets


This simple procedure consists of removing the old parapets and low walls, and repairing weak points in the masonry. It is then levelled up with a sand and lime render coat, followed by the lime-based waterproofing work.


Drainage work

The houses had to be provided with a drainage system or the slope of the existing system had to be improved. In the latter case, the ground level had to be raised to create a steeper gradient up to the manhole.

· The old guttering system · Connecting the house to the branch sewer · Digging a trench to examine the mains

· PVC pipes were laid · Increasing the gradient of the drain · Central manhole in the courtyard

· Old and new pipes before the final installation · Installation of new drainage pipes · New drainage system



Plumbing work

· The overhead pipes before repair work · Pipes leading to the first floor · New pipes

· Installation pipes in the new toilets · Connection and supply of a communal sink · Reinstalling the mains from the meter

· The old water installation · The communal sinks · Washbasins in the new toilets


All the taps were given new PVC pipes, particularly the communal toilets and washbasins.


Electrical work

The old installations were completely replaced, giving each household a protection box to minimize damage in the event of power failure.

· The general power supply · Replacing the old cables · Chasing in the walls

· Installing tubes · Replacing old cables · Installation of a protective switchboard

· Installation of electrical fittings · Electrical installation in a room · Interior of a room with the new installation



Rebuilding the floors

· Floor of the courtyard before work · Laying tiles in the courtyard · The tiles in the galleries

· Grouting · The floor of the courtyard before work · The courtyard was paved with cement tiles

· Floor of a room before work · Repairing the floor of a room using dess, made of lime and colouring · The floor of a room after restoration


The floors of the courtyards, toilets and rooms were paved with cement tiles, earthenware and dess, respectively. The flooring had to be laid on an appropriate bedding of concrete.


Restoring the interior renderings

The renderings were repaired using traditional materials: earth, sand, lime and gypsum. After removing the old render coats that had been damaged by damp and condensation, the mason sprayed the bare wall and left it to dry before applying a levelling coat and, finally, a sand and lime or gypsum render coat.

· Stripping and cleaning the walls · Levelling work using lime mortar, 2/3 screened sand and 1/3 slaked lime · Levelling

· Using a pole float · Spraying the mortar · First phase of smoothing

· Smooth-trowelling the final coat · Finished appearance · Gypsum rendering of the interior



Restoring the façades

· A façade before work · Removing damaged renderings · Spraying the bared stretches

· Applying the new rendering · Levelling the surface with a trowel · Smoothing the rendering

· Marking out the design and delimiting the different areas of the render coat · The finished rendering · The partially restored façade


The restoration of the façades required particular attention to the preservation of heritage elements. Fragile stretches of rendering were consolidated before the damaged render was removed and reproduced, including the original motifs. The timber and tile awnings that protect the windows and the main door were also repaired.


Building false ceilings

For reasons of cleanliness, comfort and visual quality, the structural beams that form the ceiling are often concealed. False ceilings of gypsum are common in traditional architecture.

· The liquid gypsum is poured onto plastic sheathing · Reinforcing the gypsum with plant fibres · Smoothing the surface

· The plasterboard, ready to be fitted · The plasterboard is suspended from the ceiling · A gypsum render was used to create a uniform surface

· A false ceiling made of reeds attached to the beams · The completed false ceiling · The finished walls and ceiling



Restoration of timber elements

· Restoring the jambs of the front door · The front door, after restoration · Restoring the anchorage of a balustrade in the masonry

· Restoration of timber elements in a wrought-iron balustrade · Wooden balustrade element · Recovery of the original balustrades, substitution of poorly restored features and widespread introduction of openwork wooden screens

· Restoration of the sculpted wood in the façade · Repairing the window awnings in the street façade · Wooden-trellis screens or mamouni allow ventilation and protect privacy


The timber elements were of particular heritage interest and were restored to preserve their integrity. Poor restoration work was corrected and metal was replaced by timber for the doors, windows, lintels and trellised screens.

Recuperation of heritage elements

Restoration of awnings

Tile and timber awnings are important elements in the traditional house. They testify to a building’s age and heritage interest, and must be recovered whenever possible.

· Stockpiling materials · The state of the awning before work · Reconstructing the parapet

· Replacing tiles · Rebuilding the sloping bed that supports the tiles · Restoring the undersides

· Bonding the joints with lime mortar · Final appearance · The final appearance of the awning, seen from the courtyard


Recuperation of heritage elements

Recuperation of arches and inscriptions

Particular attention is required when stripping frames from arched doorways in large rooms. They are often bordered by decoration and inscriptions that have been concealed over the years by different coats of rendering or paint. Careful removal may lead to the recovery of these very important heritage elements.

· An archway · The arch once the jambs of the doorway are removed · Recovering the original form

· Rebuilding the archway using gypsum · Sculpting the lobes and scallops · Recovering the old inscriptions

· Consolidating inscriptions




· The archway restored · A new and much enhanced living space





Pilot Operation



Euromed heritage

Agencia española De cooperación internacional

Col·legi d’aparelladors I arquitectes tècnics de barcelona

Centre méditerranéen de l’environnement marrakech (CMEM) Maroc