Buy Of The Week: Morocco

This dazzling apartment in the heart of Marrakesh's atmospheric old medina has been given a lavish makeover, discovers Nick Lloyd Jones

Mete has a passion for Islamic architecture and was looking for a riyadh - a classical Moroccan style of house first popularised in the 11th century. Riyadhs are built around a central sheltered courtyard and are divided into a series of apartments, the most sumptuous of which would be earmarked for use by the master of the house while the more modest quarters would be allocated to his harem and slaves.

The couple viewed more than 30 properties before they came across the Ayadi Palace. "As soon as we saw it we knew it was the one for us," says Mete. "We loved the dimensions and the fantastically high ceilings."

The palace was built in the early 1900s for the Caïd Ayadi - a warlord and close ally of the king. The caïd's descendants still occupy its main apartments while Mete acquired the section that used to serve as the palace's court house and administrative wing.

Far from being dismayed at its state, Mete saw this as an advantage, allowing him free rein to indulge his architectural creativity.

The restoration project was meticulous. There had recently been a renaissance in traditional arts and crafts in the city, thanks largely to the patronage of Morocco's popular young King Mohammed VI. Marrakesh is the king's favourite city and he spends a great deal of time there. Apart from employing local craftsmen to maintain his 11th-century palace on the medina's southernmost perimeter, he has commissioned a new palace to be built nearby - a project which again draws heavily on traditional skills.

Mete hired a number of the same craftsmen employed by the king to help him with his work on the Ayadi Palace. "These workmen are incredible," he says. "Their techniques may be primitive and not have changed much since the 11th century but the quality of their work is first class."

Mete worked closely with the craftsmen to achieve the exact results he was after. Many of the palace's original features - such as cedar ceiling beams, ornately carved giant wooden doors and the elaborate mosaic flooring and archways - were stripped and restored to their original splendour.

Mete used Moroccan building materials such as mosaics and a distinctive local plaster known as tadlakt - made from fossils.

Although where possible Mete restored the palace's original features, he was not afraid of adding modern embellishments, such as shoring up the outer walls with reinforced concrete and installing a wi-fi system.

The original split-level layout was maintained but additions were made. On the ground floor these included ornate stone fireplaces, a Turkish bath, courtyard fountain and heated swimming pool.

The upper gallery was transformed into a magnificent terrace as well as a tented area for the summer months and a lavish guest bedroom suite. Mete's Turkish girlfriend was responsible for the striking interior design. She selected the furniture - an eclectic mix of Moroccan, Turkish, Italian and English pieces. She also chose the distinctive orange-and-yellow striped colour scheme on many of the walls - a classic 12th-century design often found in Egyptian and Turkish mosques - as well as orchestrating the dazzling selection of rugs, carpets, embroideries and hangings that grace the apartment.

The couple are distraught at the prospect of leaving. "I've put so much effort into the place that it feels like my child and grandchild," says Mete. What they'll miss most, he says, is its tranquility and seclusion. "Most houses in the medina tend to overlook one another. However, we are very fortunate in enjoying complete privacy and we will really miss the long balmy evenings on the roof terrace.

The couple plan to stay in Marrakesh but will probably move to the Palmeraie district - a leafy suburb where they hope to find somewhere with a large garden. They have been looking for a year, but without any luck. "It is going to be incredibly difficult finding anywhere half as inspiring as the place we've got," confesses Mete.

Get the spec

What's for sale? Split-level four-bedroom wing of palace in Marrakesh's old town built around a courtyard with a heated pool and secluded roof terrace.

How big? About 680sq m including ensuite master bedroom with dressing room and Turkish bath, guest suite, staff accommodation, utility room.

Serious kit: Beamed ceilings, mosaic archways and flooring.

Buy it: Aylesford International, 020-7351 2383, £1.1m

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