Enchanted by Fez el Bali’s faded glory, and impressed with the rehabilitation of palaces, riads and neighborhoods in the medina, we purchased a small house in a neighborhood not far from the prestigious Karouine Mosque. Just minutes from R’cif parking, the neighborhood came with the requisite mosque, hammam, bakery, Koranic school and fountain. As we restored the house, we did our best to retain and update its original look and feel.

Dramatic plaster carving in superb condition sold us on the house and we used this as a guide for new plasterwork to complement the old. Original decorative painting on wood, a zellij carpet in the courtyard salon, and a unique octagonal halka also inspired restoration and new work throughout the house. Restoration of our beautiful house was a years-long process that turned out to be every bit as complex, challenging–and rewarding–as we had been forewarned.

Restoration, room by room

Although the dar came with great optics, we had quite a bit of work to do, to make sure its underpinnings were sound. Thin street-side walls would not support a reinforced roof and had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Previous owners had accessed the terrace by ladder, through a hole in the roof. Laying out a new staircase from ground level to terrace enabled us to repurpose the hallway fronting an old, Turkish-style toilet into a full bath with shower. We removed the galley kitchen earlier residents had tacked onto the courtyard and installed a fully equipped one at ground level. Every enhancement was worked in around existing load-bearing walls. We planned where to put switches, drains, sockets and lamps, each of which required a hole in wall, floor, or ceiling.

Stripping the house down to its skeleton exposed fine bones. Hand-hewn cedar beams that could not be used in their original locations were retained as roof supports. As the house took form again under all the dust, we began to realize Dar Borj Dahab’s promise.

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