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Miracle in Marrakech: The Story of Rosemary, a Contemporary Moroccan Riad

Rosemary, a contemporary Moroccan escape and a haven of texture, emerged as a miracle following the recent earthquake in Marrakech. This event, though devastating for the city, had minimal impact on Rosemary, a newly established riad. Laurence Leenaert, the owner and a Marrakech-based Belgian artist, acknowledges the fortunate turn of events without taking it lightly.

During the earthquake, two friends were staying at the riad, and while many vases shattered, the structural integrity of Rosemary remained intact. Leenaert reflects on this, stating, “We had two friends staying at the riad when the earthquake happened. Many vases fell and broke, but the structure didn’t sustain any damage.”

Remarkably, Rosemary was on the brink of its grand opening during the earthquake. Leenaert acknowledges the timing and emphasizes the importance of tourism for Marrakech’s economy, saying, “The timing doesn’t help, but we can’t do anything against nature. Marrakech is a city that lives mainly thanks to tourism, and we can only encourage visitors to come to Marrakech to support its economy.”

Adding to the allure

Visiting Marrakech is always a delightful experience, and Rosemary adds to its allure. Situated adjacent to Palais Bahia in the oldest neighbourhood of the Medina, this five-room riad underwent a five-year transformation. It was purchased from its previous owner, Rose-Marie, a Frenchwoman, who convinced Leenaert and her husband Ayoub to acquire her three-story residence. The property had previously been renovated by Belgian architect Quentin Wilbaux, who was commissioned by UNESCO to map the Medina in the 1990s.

Rosemary adheres to the traditional riad layout. This includes sheltered rooms and loggias surrounding a central patio adorned with the graceful branches of a 40-year-old Jacaranda tree. Leenaert collaborated with over 40 local artisans to infuse the interiors with bespoke furnishings. Thias includes materials like zellij (or zellige) tiles and tadelakt, a natural lime-based plaster commonly found in the region.

Every corner of Rosemary beckons to be touched. From the burl veneer wooden table with a terrazzo top to the intricately carved cedar doors and wrought-iron chairs. Carved sandstone tables with mosaic tops and sandstone and goatskin lampshades further enhance the sensory experience.

A haven in the city

The rooftop terrace arguably offers the most breathtaking views. Shaded by the Jacaranda tree, it provides a picturesque backdrop of tiled roofs and the nearby Medina. Sunbeds are thoughtfully arranged, accompanied by zellij-tiled tables, all set for a leisurely lunch.

Touria, the in-house chef, ensures a culinary journey that tantalizes the taste buds. Guests can savor Moroccan pancakes with homemade yogurt, avocado granola bowls, and fragrant beef tagine complemented by caramelized pears, all prepared with care.

For Leenaert, Rosemary is not just a business endeavor but a labor of love. As Marrakech embarks on the arduous task of rebuilding, Rosemary stands as an extension of Leenaert’s interior brand, LRNCE, which predominantly features handmade products. She envisions Rosemary as a space where guests can immerse themselves in her lifestyle and art de vivre.


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