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“This is Tadelakt,” says Alan, rubbing his hand along the amber wall of the 200 year old Riad Merstane he and his wife Kate own in Marrakech. “It’s a very ancient form of plastering traditionally used here which uses a mixture of sand and lime plaster. As Marrakech is built on an oasis, the lime plaster acts like a sponge for the moisture that comes from below, absorbing it to allow the rising heat of the day to then evaporate it.”
Traditionally used as a wall finish for hammams, the craft of Tadelakt is still practised by artisans in Morocco, the techniques being passed from father to son. For me, the beauty and texture of Tadelakt is one of the defining characteristics of Moroccan architecture which gives the riads and dars their unique beauty. The completed surface is waterproof and its use is increasingly replacing traditional tiling as a trendy decorative finish for bathrooms and kitchens way beyond the ‘Red City’ and its environs.
Using pure lime plaster, the application is compacted to remove any air bubbles before being polished with a river stone and finished in the local black soap. Coloured with natural pigments, the final effect is a sleek, silky soft finish with a matt patina that allows the light to interact with its surface, changing as the day morphs from glaring sunlight to casting its shadows through the courtyard and porticos. After dark, when the oil lamps and candles are lit, the Tadelakt becomes a stage for the flickering flames to dance on.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+