Welcome to Bab Aylan, a popular quarter in the medina of Marrakech where globetrotter Nicole Francesca Manfron lives for half the year. Visit her riad, which has been reimagined with flare – a synthesis of old-world charm and contemporary urbanity.
BY JULIE BOUCHERAT
With an Italian father and a German mother, Nicole Fransesca Manfron grew up in a multicultural environment. Germany, Italy, the United States, France – Nicole lived and studied where the wind took her. She now lives between Amsterdam and Marrakech.
At the beginning of 2004, Nicole started renovating her dar (a small riad), situated in the district of Bab Aylan, which is known for its fruit markets and street food vendors and is located away from tourist hubs. One day, Nicole arrived to a vision of destruction.
‘I found myself in front of a pile of stones and a donkey in the middle of the patio. Everything was destroyed except for one wall… It was quite a surprise!’
The ruin was attributed to unstable foundations and an upwelling of underground water. She had to rebuild from scratch. ‘I started by handing 250 photos to the site manager, in order to reconstruct the same riad. But, little by little, I found pleasure in guiding, modifying and remodelling certain aspects. I discovered a passion for creating spaces and integrating local knowledge and crafts [into the build].’
Today, the riad presents as Moroccan architecture with a contemporary, industrial approach. The 100m2 space is spread over three levels that house a kitchen, a dining room, a lounge, a pool and a small bedroom with a bathroom on the ground floor. An outdoor staircase leads from the patio to the first level where there are two other suites and a winter garden. The rooftop is a secret retreat – Nicole and her husband, Moroccan artisan Rachid Bargarmane, come here on hot summer nights to sleep under the stars.
Want to see more? This article appears in full in the Heritage issue of Elle Decoration South Africa, September 2017.