Musée de Mouassine

Museum in Mouassine & Bab Doukkala

Image by Douiria

While house-hunting in the medina, Patrick Menac'h stumbled across a historic treasure of great cultural significance. Beneath the layers of white plaster of a modest riad's 1st-floor douiria (guest apartment) was a jewel of domestic Saadian architecture, c 1560. The riad's ground-floor rooms hold a small collection of Berber artefacts, but the painstakingly restored interior of the upstairs salons, with their intricate cornice friezes and painted woodwork, are the true star of this charming museum.

The other major projects of this period, when the Saadians were busy transforming Marrakesh into their Imperial capital, are all grand in scale – the mosques at Mouassine, Bab Doukkala, Ben Youssef and Sidi Bel Abbes. But this bijou 1st-floor douiria was created by a chorfa (noble) family after the Saadians relocated the Mouassine Jews to the mellah and gave the city a new dynamic.

The douiria, in its restored form, is thus an important example of domestic architecture in this era and a commentary on the courtly art of hospitality. Imagine the mindset of travel-weary guests as they entered the main salon with its symphony of colour: flowers and birds in saffron, verdigris and apricot climb the walls in a vertical garden, while bedrooms are trimmed with sculpted Kufic script framed by azure blue and finished with a fine Pompeian red skirting. You may assume the vivid colours on show are the work of the 24-man restoration team, but the decor is, amazingly, original – their vibrancy preserved beneath layers of plaster for centuries. In the side salon, you can view a fascinating short video of some of the restoration methods.

The staff here are passionate about the douiria and its restoration process and are more than happy to guide you through the rooms offering insight and explanations.