In June this year I visited Marrakech primarily to do a course in Tadelakt plastering, which I wish to be a feature on the walls of my natural house which I plan to build at Narara Ecovillage. Instead of a formal course, my Morrocan host, Aziz, took me to building sites to learn the techniques from a Tadelakt master.
I found Aziz through booking on Homestay. He met me at the airport and took me to stay with his family several kilometres from the city centre.
On the back of his motor bike, we drove around new housing developments, Aziz asking the workers at each new location if the plastering technique was to be employed in the completed house. Many times the answer was no, as the Tadelakt finish comes at a cost over and above conventional plastering.
We were lucky. At the end of day one, the answer was yes. Mohammad was a freelance Tadelakt master, going from one luxury house to another. He agreed to show me the technique the next day. In the meantime, the mixture had to soak in water overnight.
Next day Mohammad showed me some fundamentals – surface preparation, materials, implements and explained the technique. It’s a simple method; historically it was used in North Africa to protect earthen structures, with its waterproofing qualities.
Marrakech is immersed in history. Twice the capital of the Arab Empire many hundreds of years ago and a former imperial city. This was reflected in the luxurious palace halls and the beautifully reconstructed Riads that glimmer with monolithic plaster covering the building’s extremities. Exotic Marrakech is a unique city that has retained so many of its early structures, providing inspiration for this now popular worldwide fascination of creating plaster that is art to behold and is being embraced throughout the natural building community.
Five days later when I farewelled Aziz and the fascinating city of Marrakech, he took me to the airport on his motorbike, my luggage strapped to my back! It was a great adventure and I enjoyed living with locals and experiencing their way of life, their food, their customs. And I went away with a souvenir that money can’t buy – the secrets of the Tadelakt technique – learned from a master craftsman.