Foreign Ownership in the Medina of Marrakesh

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Karim Elgendy

Karim Elgendy

Strategies for Sustainable Cities
If you’ve ever visited the walled Medina of Marrakesh, you are likely to have stayed in one of its hashtagRiads – traditional courtyard houses – that were converted into small hotels.
You may have also wondered why most of the beautiful houses in the imperial capital of hashtagAlmoravids and hashtagAlmohads are owned and run by Europeans.
While under colonial rule the french administrators built a separate ‘Ville Neuvelle’ for Europeans outside of the walled Medina. The apartments and villas they built became so associated with modernity that even after independence many of the residents of the Medina left their residences and sought residences that were associated with a more European lifestyle.
Other residents who were unable to afford maintenance cost, or who inherited shared ownership of Riads, also sought a quick sale, and prudent European buyers took advantage of the situation and bought many of these properties at bargain prices.
The Riads were soon upgraded and converted into small hotels, helping shape a growing tourism market. Yet while the conservation of Riads was commendable, the Medina today has a strong sense of a museum where traditional urbanism is commodified by European landlords and served to as exotic to European tourists.

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