Creating Golf Homes in Morocco Both Traditional and Modern

Golf has grown in popularity in the Middle East and North Africa, from Algeria to Qatar. But one country in the region has a very important principle: Morocco.

The sport has been here since the British exported it in the early years of the 20th century. But he gained momentum in the middle of the century, thanks to King Hassan II – governor from 1961 to 1999 – who was a golf enthusiast and saw the sport as a tool to help his country enter a market-based economy.

The king created many courses created by some of the world’s top designers, and in 1971 created a golf tournament now called Trophée Hassan II, a permanent part of the European tour.

The country now has more than 40 courses with a high reputation and both their number and popularity are growing rapidly. It is not a bad thing that golf is at the heart of Morocco’s latest tourism boom, and that Prince Moulay Rahid, son of Hassan II and younger brother of King Mohammed VI, is an avid golfer. Or that the weather is sun more than 300 days a year.

Along or close to the country – which is close to the coast, the mountains or the popular cities – are some of the most beautiful houses in the area. Unlike many newer homes in places such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Egypt, which often display Western styles and ambitions, these homes, whether traditional or modern, require classic Moroccan motifs and approaches.

Inspired by their older downtown counterparts, they often have durable earthy walls and delicate abstract shapes and are full of vibrant colors, detailed ornament and handmade wood, ceramics, metals and fabrics. They often soften with lush plantations, fountains, screens, shady patios and inner courtyards. And their designs are often hybrid Islamic, Berber, Moorish and French.

“When people come to Morocco they want to feel that they are in Morocco,” said Maud Fajas, director of the international real estate company Emile Garcin in Marrakesh, which has about 200 homes for sale or rent in the country. , most of them near Marrakesh and more than 20 golf courses. (Properties near courses generally range from $ 1.2 million to $ 3.6 million for sale and $ 950 and $ 1,400 per night for rent.) Originally from France, Ms. Fajas went on holiday to Morocco in February 2000. and never left, an issue that is quite common expatriates in the country.

The secret to achieving this combination of modern and classic, he points out, is the excellent tradition of the country’s art. Almost anything you would ever want can be made to order by an almost unlimited number of local craftsmen, from bricks to carpenters to weavers.

“It’s exactly the way they work here,” Ms Fajas said. “It’s the only way they know how to do it.” Often craftsmen learned from their parents, who learned from their own, having specialized skills and a willingness to build anything.

During a (virtual) tour of one of her company houses, designed by renowned Moroccan architect Eli Moyal, next to the PalmGolf Marrakech Palmeraie golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, she pointed out handmade vaulted barrel roofs, hand bricks, handmade floor tiles, handmade glass and metal chandeliers, as well as handmade bamboo ceiling by the pool.

Ms Fajas also noted some modern-style homes next to the Al Maaden Golf Resort, which opened in 2008, just minutes south of Marrakesh winding roads. (Many of the city’s newer classes are concentrated south of downtown, in an area that is less traditional.)

These types of houses, more common in recent years, are more square, faded, large windows and free. But outside they often imitate the burnt orange surfaces of traditional Moroccan houses that look like clay – usually a mixture of trowel concrete, lime and earth – and their wet connections between interior and exterior. And inside they contain handmade boats and abstract details, such as screens, bright fabrics and geometric ceramic tiles, whose abstract designs work well for both traditional and modern settings.

“The craft you get is very specific,” said David Schneuwly, another French transplant. Mr. Schneuwly founded Villanovo, a company that rents villas all over the country and elsewhere around the world. (About 20 percent of his Moroccan listings go to golf vacationers, he said.) “It appears in the details of mashrabiya [projecting wood latticework windows] and subtle variations in color and line. “

This level of art, said Vincent and Sophie Rambaud, owners of a property in Villanovo, about 10 minutes from the PalmGolf Marrakech Palmeraie, which allowed them to build the type of house they wanted.

This house, built 15 years ago, ended up incorporating a combination of traditional and modern forms and surfaces. It was not easy – they went through several architects and builders – but the constant was the incredible craftsmen, each focusing on something specific.

One specialist worked only on tadelakt (waterproof surfaces made of plaster, lime, water and pigment). “You have to apply it in a certain way and it has to be made from a special lime from a specific area of ​​Marrakesh,” Rambaud said. “You can not see the paint before it is finished and you have to wait three weeks before it dries.”

This type of skill and attention to detail continued in every corner of the house: Plaster workers created intricate custom molds and intricate ceilings. an old carpenter created stair doors (their shapes were first designed by Ms Rambaud) for each room a metalworker in the Marrakesh medina handmade copper knobs (also designed by Ms Rambaud) for each room. The wooden furniture was designed by both Ms. Rambaud and local craftsmen and is produced by a variety of local talents. Colorful geometric fabrics come from Morocco and other parts of Africa.

Unsurprisingly, sometimes these highly customized creations – which are still affordable due to the superiority of handicrafts in the country – could be unpredictable.

“You just have to be patient and calm,” Rambaud said. “In the end you get pretty much what you want, and sometimes you get something better.”

As evidenced by the combination of French and Moroccan design visions that went home, craftsmen are often open to combining aesthetics and even time periods.

A good example of this varied approach is Popham Design, a Marrakesh-based concrete tile company started by an American couple, Caitlin and Samuel Dowe-Sandes. The couple employs 65 people in their room, most of them local craftsmen who create riffs on the couple in ancient zellige mosaics, making brass molds, filling them with colorful concrete, pressing them by hand and letting them heal for about two weeks.

Mr. Dowe-Sandes explained how the prevalence of crafts permeates every aspect of life. “If you want a wicker laundry basket for your home, you will go to the man who does it, count it and get it four days later,” he said. “We renovated a house and not a single power tool was used. There are many more. Understand that you can still achieve a lot without Home Depot. “

In addition to traditional art and global eclecticism, another major influence on these homes is the same thing that helps golf courses flourish: the sunny North African climate, which forms homes to embrace outdoor gathering places, strategic shading and protection. from cold nights.

The Rambauds worked with a group of gardeners to create Mediterranean gardens containing palm, olive and orange trees of various sizes and groups. They created patios and semi-enclosed outdoor spaces for plenty of outdoor time (“We live in and out,” Rambaud said) and installed a fireplace in almost every room.

Casablanca-born landscape architect Audrey Lebondidier is still wondering about a forgiving ecosystem in which almost everything will grow with a little water. Works with homeowners who want Mediterranean landscapes like Rambauds, but also creates house landscapes in tropical, Asian, European and other styles.

Golf course homes in Marrakesh have the added advantage of looking not only at stadiums but also at the area’s lakes and mountains, said Mehdi Amar, deputy director of the Marrakesh office of Barnes International Realty. He said neighboring golf properties were one of the largest areas of his office before the pandemic put international travel on hold. But businesses, he said, are slowly coming back.

While homes are almost always open to the elements, there are often still a few surprises inside. The house of the Rambauds, like many in Morocco, contains its own hammam (a ritual bath and hammam), in which case a vaulted area with natural light peeking from above.

Moving the house a meander from open, light-filled rooms to darker ones with unpredictable openings and varied perspectives. It is almost like walking through the medina, the wall, the ancient part of the city, which is not far away. Like Morocco itself, sometimes it feels familiar and other times it is completely foreign.

“We love Morocco and Marrakesh. the people, the life we ​​have the weather, the view “, said Mr. Rambaud. “We feel at home and at the same time somewhere else.”

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