The owner is a local entrepreneur who grew up only metres away from Riad Rcif, always dreamt of one day restoring an old house in his local area of Laayoune and showing people of all cultures what it was like to live in the medina in the fourteenth century. Originally planned as a museum to showcase the world class arts and crafts of Fez, he gathered a professional team of the best artisans to bring this former diamond back to life.
As work began, the family realised they could offer an even richer experience to guests if they could stay in the riad surrounded by all the magnificent detailed artwork. They would then have time to appreciate it, as well as his mother’s legendary cooking. They also wanted to promote exchanges between many cultures as this is such an integral part of the history of Fez.
The riad was originally built in 1372 for the Pasha (governor) who lived here for many years. Various merchants and noble families owned it afterwards until it eventually fell into total disrepair mid last century. It was in a ruined state when the family bought it 8 years ago.
The 6 year restoration was a monumental undertaking of:
- Patience: overseeing the individual artisans and keeping them on track
- Logistics: all building material was brought in by donkey and trolley through narrow winding alleys. Similarly, all rubble and waste was removed the same way
- Time: when everything is hand carved, painted and sculpted it does actually take years
- Money: only the highest quality materials were used, made by the best craftsmen
- Vision: believing it would all come together and staying inspired
Many of the zellige and hand carved plaster is similar to what can be seen at Alhambra in Grenada, in the south of Spain where the Moorish artists lived from the 8th to the end of the 14th century. This includes ancient Arabic calligraphy like you will see in the different medersas (Koranic schools) of Fez.
Whatever could be preserved was kept. This included cleaning all remaining tiles and sanding the ceilings back. New zellige (mosaic tiles) were then laid around the original ones so you can now appreciate the contrast.
Elaborate structural reinforcement was also needed as the porous walls of the original building fill with water each winter and over 700 years inevitably start to collapse.
A slideshow of the restoration can be viewed at the riad.
Riad Rcif is an extraordinary example of the highest quality workmanship in Fez.