Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Our new home part I - Buying a house in Africa

The typical Riad is build around a courtyard, which is the center of the house
This is the "patio" of our new home

Riad – The Arabic work ”Ryad” translates into ”garden” and the traditional Moroccan riads were originally built as private palaces for the upper classes and royalties. A secret and serene hideaway from the hectic buzz in the medina. A riad is typically built around an inner courtyard and this architectural style magically eliminates the noise from the busy streets outside. You will experience the magic of Marrakech while walking through the 1000 years old narrow alleys and than escaping into your own little paradise. All rooms and doors, except the entry to the house, face the patio that is the center of the home.

 A traditional courtyard, laid out in squares and with a pool or fountain in the middle

Riads are completely closed to the outside world ensuring privacy and calm. For instance when you enter a riad in the medina you immediately face a wall and have to go right to enter the house, this design is to make sure that no one can look into your home when the door is opened. The same logic applies for windows and balconies that all face the inner courtyard and never the streets outside. The center of the home is the courtyard and this is were you show the finest things you have. The greater wealth the greater courtyard filled with trees as well as detailed arts and crafts.

Buying a house in Africa
It was mid June 2012 we went down to Marrakech to look at properties and possibly find our own Riad in the ancient medina. We soon learned that although all the alleys may look the same at a first glance there are the same differences in districts and property prices in the narrow streets of Marrakech as in New York or Stockholm.

After visiting everything from houses inspired by New York lofts to really run down ruins we found our little gem, Riad Arabe, located at the highest point in the medina in a very nice neighborhood.

It was operated as a guest house so we checked in and spent 2 nights in the house. We loved it, none of the other properties we visited could compare. We decided there and then to go for it.

After agreeing on the price with the owner followed several trips to get all the legal documentations and formal paper work done and in November we finally got the keys to our new home. Buying property in Morocco is actually a quite standardized process that feels safe even for a foreigner. With the help of our real estate agent Valerie, the notary office, a lawyer and a translator we got the buying process all wrapped up without any hiccups.

If you want to check out the Marrakech real estate market, we can strongly recommend our real estate agent Valerie and her Cote Medina .

The courtyard pool

Layout of the Riad
Riad Arabe is a traditional Riad (about 350m2) and was built in the end of the 19th century. The house consists of a impressive entry hall, a roomy main salon, a kitchen (off limit for anyone but our housekeeper), bathroom and a library/second salon downstairs. There is the palm filled courtyard with a very nice pool and a "B´hou" (outdoor lounge, see the picture left). Upstairs there are 2 double bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and another salon with a nice log fire. Up the stairs once more and you find a third bedroom with bathroom. The roof terrace has amazing views over the medina. The Riad is quite big and very well laid out. The walls are 1.6 meters thick which ensures a nice climate even in the summer heat.

The rooms are long and narrow, the ceilings are high, the walls are white, the bathrooms are tadelakt (cement with marble powder) and the house is 100% pure charm and positive energy.

The roof terrace
The roof terrace was really boring and mainly used for storage. We had it re-constructed in 3 levels featuring a dining area, a sunbathing area, a tent-lounge with a huge sofa, a wall fountain was put in place and we kept the vintage outdoor shower (see below). We had a gardener plant orange and olive trees, bougainvilleas and other greens to create a roof-garden.

View from the terrace

The people of Marrakech
The narrow streets of the medina all look simple and alike, almost no windows face the street and doors are not allowed to face each other, all to ensure privacy. Amazing palaces lie next to rundown ruins and from the outside you could never tell which door hides a treasure. Our neighbors are no different. On one side there is a really big and beautiful Riad where a large, noisy Moroccan family lives, on the other side there is a "a hole" where some people (friendly) live with their animals under very basic conditions. Opposite our house there is a hotel-Riad and a few doors a way you find the amazing place of Vanessa Branson (yes, that Richards sister). Its your typical Marrakech neighborhood.

Rachida - our wonderful housekeeper and cook, who we could never manage without.

One of the best things about Riad Arabe is the amazing housekeeper and trained cook, Rachida, who came with the house (!!!). She has proven to be an invaluable asset, taking care of us, the house, cooking fantastic meals and managing both financials and projects. She has a great sense of humor, is almost always on top of things and is very house proud.

That's the short version about our house, Riad Arabe. Its a beautiful little Riad and we are so happy to be the caretakers of this property. You never really own a riad, you just look after it for a while.

Part II of this blog post will follow shortly,


  1. I could really use this information. I also consulted with couple of conveyancing lawyers in Sydney and so far everything is going as planned.

    1. Hi Elle, if you have questions you can email me at

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