With only 11 days to go until we open we are tidying up the finishing of the fine hand carved plasterwork that has been recreated by local artisans. Marrakech lies at the architectural crossroads where the northern Morocco Andalusian style meets the more casual southern Berber style. Within the city there is a fusion of the two styles and riads will either focus on a single style or fuse the two with a combination of features.
Detailed plaster carving is primarily an Andalusian feature. We think this time consuming craft is one of the most beautiful Moroccan features. The new Royal Mansour Hotel agrees and has installed complete walls of detailed plaster work. Whilst we wish we could install such a grand scale it would look extravagant in our restored home. However, we have ensured this feature is strongly represented throughout the Riad and all our suits have some form of hand carved plaster.
All of the rooms have fine plaster arches over the internal window spaces. These were recreated by hand and each room has a different carved design to complement the individual appearance of each suite. This image shows the finished result before the walls were cleaned, sanded and repainted. The finished effect is stunning.
This chiseled plaster is locally known as geps and is inspired by the Moorish work at Alhambra in Spain. It is sculpted on-site and often contains a combination of Arabic script and other geometric designs. Therefore most plaster craftsmen are also skilled in Arabic script and tend to be one of the more expensive artisans to employ. When preparing the panel the artisan prepares only what he needs and takes time in mixing the plaster to ensure it is the right consistency and free from lumps. A layer of 2 inches is applied to the area which is worked using a variety of tools for the smoothing off. The plaster is then left slightly to dry and after a time softened again with water before tracing the motif with a variety of tools. Once the outline is in place a chisel is used to give definition and depth.
Traditionally the carving is undertaken working up and down the design before moving along to the next section and this is regarded harder and therefore more skilled than working horizontally. Mastering all the techniques, the layers, the designs and the depth requires considerable time serving as an apprentice and for this reason many do not choose this craft.
For guests who are inspired by our plaster work and wish to see the finest example of carving in Marrakech are advised to visit the Ben Youssef Madrasa about 5 minutes from Riad Al-Bushra.
Riad Al-Bushra Home Page www.riadalbushra.com